Senior Malachi Alexander’s dunk just before the final buzzer gave No. 6 Eleanor Roosevelt a 69-67 win over No. 8 Potomac (Md.), capping a thrilling comeback in the Prince George’s County title game on Wednesday night.
Watching the celebration in the jubilant moments after the slam, Raiders Coach Brendan O’Connell oozed with pride not just for his team’s first victory in the 11th annual game but also for the player who delivered the knockout blow.
Alexander, a 6-foot-7 forward headed to Holy Cross, doesn’t put up buzzworthy scoring stats every night. He currently ranks third on the Raiders at 11.2 points per game, but in the team’s impressive run so far, he’s done a little bit of everything, showcasing an expanded skill set with an improved perimeter game.
With a 20-point, seven-rebound effort in the comeback victory against the Wolverines, Alexander once again showed his importance to Eleanor Roosevelt, which will begin its bid for a fourth straight state tournament appearance next week.
“He’s awesome,” O’Connell said. “I’m telling everyone who will listen that he’s the best player in the area, but he showed it tonight.”
In his third season with the varsity squad, Alexander has worked hard this year to become more well-rounded.
He can score around the basket and defend a variety of positions, and he’s also displayed a willingness to step out and shoot, making 14 three-pointers. (He also went eight-for-nine from the free throw line in the game to improve to 61 percent for the season.)
“I give a lot of credit to the Roosevelt program,” said Alexander, who orally committed to Holy Cross in June and then signed in November. “My shot has gotten better, ball-handling, my strength. Everything has just gotten better.”
On the final play against Potomac, Alexander showed what a tough matchup he can be. He took a handoff from guard Emmanuel Matey on the left wing, dribbled to his right and found forward Jesse Ason at the free throw line before making the backdoor cut that freed him for the open dunk.
Even with a clear path to the hoop, Alexander still had to contend with 6-foot-4 junior Dion Wiley coming over to help. Afterward, Alexander joked that he had his mind made up to dunk it before the play even began, and he went up strong to make sure the charging Wiley didn’t have a play. (Check out the video below for further proof.)
“Definitely not,” said Ason when asked if he had any doubt Alexander would finish the play. “He’s been carrying us all year. I think he’s one of the best players in the area, and we rode his back.”
After Wednesday’s game, Wiley, who had 20 points and carried the Wolverines down the stretch, made sure to acknowledge Alexander’s effort. As the highly coveted recruit headed for the exit at Wise, he reached between a pair of reporters talking with Alexander to give a pat on the shoulder.
Alexander said he’s happy to fly under the radar, a key cog in a balanced lineup. Earlier this season, Coach Brendan O’Connell said he may have had slightly more talented teams at the Greenbelt school but added, “It seems like our pieces fit really well together.”
“I just want to be able to do whatever the team needs – rebounds, points, assists, whatever,” Alexander said. “The rating doesn’t mean much to me. It’s just motivation, really. There’s nothing to it.”
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