Last March, moments after her team lost an emotional Maryland Class AA girls state basketball championship game to Rockville by two points, Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Maxine Eggleston predicted her team would be strong this season, even though she had only two returning players.
Yesterday afternoon, Eggleston's team took its first major step toward living up to that prediction as senior leader Cindy Lenart dribbled past halfcourt with four seconds remaining in a tie game and remarkably banked in the game-winning shot in a 50-47 victory over Bowie at Roosevelt.
"I looked up at the clock and I saw there were only four seconds left and I knew that I had to dribble the ball upcourt to get a shot," said Lenart, who was swarmed by her teammates and coach after the shot. "I just threw up a prayer and thank God it was answered."
Lenart's buzzer-beater culminated an 18-4 Raiders run that began with about five minutes remaining and Bowie holding an apparently comfortable 43-32 lead.
But the two players that the Raiders (3-0) will count on in big games -- Lenart (15 points) and senior Sandra Gilbreath (16 points) -- took over, shaking off their defenders to score, and also overplaying on defense to force inexperienced Bowie (4-1) to flutter in the final minutes.
Bowie led, 14-2, early in the second period, but began to take shots that either bounced high off the backboard or missed everything, allowing the Raiders to charge back and trail, 23-22, at the half.
Behind Nicole Mould (14 points), Dawn Utara (13 points) and Monica Bailey (6 points), the Bulldogs built a 43-32 lead with 4:16 left. But Lenart, coming off screens and working one-on-one in the lane, reeled off three straight baskets to bring Roosevelt to 43-38.
After a couple changes of possession, Lenart made a steal that led to two free throws by Gilbreath, as Roosevelt drew to within 43-40 with two minutes left.
Gilbreath then made a steal and an off-balance bank shot that was followed by a free throw by Heather Mance to tie it at 43.
Dedrienne Wilson's follow basket with 18 seconds left gave Roosevelt a 47-45 lead. However, Geri Vartabedian made a fadeaway shot in traffic to make it 47-47 with six seconds left.