After carrying nothing but potential into last night's IAABO championship final, Eleanor Roosevelt's girls' basketball team left Prince George's County Community College with something more tangible: a championship trophy.
Roosevelt's 51-46 victory over No. 3 Riverdale Baptist capped an improbable run for a Raiders' team that was the last squad picked to round out the eight-team field, only to prove they were worthy of an invitation to the 30th annual tournament by winning three games in as many days.
Sophomore guard Kairsten Nunn scored a game-best 19 points, the final coming on a layup with 1 minute 12 seconds remaining, to give the Raiders (7-1) a 46-44 lead they would not relinquish and extend their winning streak to four games.
"No one thought we should even be invited to this tournament, except for us," Nunn said. "And then we made it to the championship game, and people still doubted us, and then we won the championship. I think we should get some respect now."
Nunn's performance, in which she added five assists and five steals against the Crusaders (13-5), earned her the tournament's most valuable player award after registering 57 points and 13 assists collectively in the Raiders' victories over H.D. Woodson, Washington-Lee and Riverdale Baptist.
"Kairsten is a leader on this team, both athletically and emotionally because she runs our team out there," Roosevelt Coach Roderick Hairston said. "But not a lot of people knew about her, and not a lot of people knew about us. But we came in here and won a great tournament, and beat a great Riverdale Baptist team. This is a game that really establishes our team."
Riverdale Baptist, which had won 11 of its past 12 games -- a stretch that included victories over five ranked teams -- led 43-39 following a steal and layup by junior guard Wanisha Smith (team-high 18 points) with 3:01 remaining.
But the Raiders responded by going on a 5-1 run, capped by Nunn's two free throws that tied the score at 44 with 1:43 left. Roosevelt forced the Crusaders into a turnover on its next possession, and then reeled off the next four points by combining Nunn's layup with a free throw by sophomore guard Ashley Dublin and junior forward Andrea Wright to stretch its lead to 48-44.
Smith's two free throws pulled the Crusaders within 48-46 with eight seconds left, but Roosevelt senior forward Tiffany Smith made a layup while she was intentionally fouled to secure the Raiders' victory.
In the third-place consolation, Gwynn Park junior forward Markeya Watson scored 10 of her team-high 16 points in the first quarter to stake her sixth-ranked Yellow Jackets to an early lead they would not relinquish en route to a 52-46 victory over Washington-Lee. Gwynn Park, which had its seven-game winning streak end Friday night against Riverdale Baptist, improved to 7-1. Washington-Lee, which was led by junior forward Vandy Pullen's 16 points, fell to 5-4.