Oxon Hill senior Michael Sweetney turned just as the ball was thrown deep down the court. The 6-foot-8 center reacted quickly, stretching out a long arm to make the steal before the ball reached its intended target.
Moments later, Sweetney was at the opposite end of the court, finishing the play with a vicious, one-handed dunk to give the Clippers a seven-point lead with 2 minutes 45 seconds left. His slam sent the packed gymnasium at Oxon Hill into a frenzy and the Eleanor Roosevelt players to their bench for a timeout.
No. 9 Roosevelt would make one more run at top-ranked Oxon Hill, but the damage had been done. The Clippers fed off the energy generated from the play and held on for a 74-70 victory. Oxon Hill improved to 4-0; Roosevelt fell to 2-3.
"That was a really critical play," Oxon Hill Coach Billy Lanier said. "Michael steps it up when we need a big play. The whole team gets a lift when he makes plays like that."
Sweetney, who has signed to play for Georgetown next season, scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots. He said of the game-breaking play: "It was a big steal. It hyped us up. We needed someone to make something happen because we weren't playing our best."
After Sweetney's dunk, Roosevelt clawed back, cutting the Clippers' lead to 70-67 on a three-pointer by Eddie Basden with 25 seconds left. But Oxon Hill shot 4 of 6 from the free throw line in the final seconds to seal the victory.
"They came right at us tonight," Roosevelt Coach Glenn Farello said. "They have some great outside shooters to complement Michael. You can't go undefeated in this area with only one guy."
Farello was referring to Oxon Hill guards Phil Goss (19 points) and Marcus Artis (11). Because Roosevelt keyed on Sweetney, Goss and Artis were given room on the perimeter.
The Raiders were led by senior Delonte Holland, who returned after missing three games for violating a team rule. Although the 6-6 guard, who has signed to play at Rhode Island next season, showed some rust, he scored a team-high 17 points.
"Delonte is extremely important to us," Farello said. "We're going to be fine."
Holland scored 26 points in Roosevelt's season-opening win over DuVal on Dec. 7, but was suspended that week. He did not play in the Largo Tip-Off Classic last week when the Raiders lost to Dunbar and Central.
Last night's game was close throughout. Neither team led by more than six.
"This was definitely a big win," said Lanier. "It helps that we've been in this type of game before. These are the games that show you what kind of team you are."