Wise senior D.J. Nedab knocked down a three-pointer with about two seconds left in Friday’s Maryland 4A South boys’ basketball final, but the Pumas had no timeouts left and could only watch as the clock expired on Eleanor Roosevelt’s 56-55 victory. In the next instant, the Raiders and their fans had swarmed the court in Greenbelt, bouncing wildly as the YouTube hit “Harlem Shake” blared through the gym.
Fifth-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt has become accustomed to such celebrations, now headed for its fourth straight state tournament appearance and sixth in eight years. For Coach Brendan O’Connell, the win held special significance with a senior-laden group standing up to the weight of lofty expectations.
The Raiders had never appeared in the Prince George’s County title game before beating No. 8 Potomac (Md.) at the buzzer last month, and the past three years, they won the region crown without the benefit of the top seed, slotted second, fourth and second, respectively. They advance to face No. 4 North Point in a Thursday state semifinal at Comcast Center, a rematch from last season won by Eleanor Roosevelt.
“The No. 1 seed [in the 4A South] hasn’t made it to Comcast in years, so there was a lot of pressure on them, and they didn’t play like it,” said O’Connell, who has taken the team to at least the region final in each of his eight seasons. “Out of the four, this was definitely the toughest, I think.”
Eleanor Roosevelt (25-1) has thrived on experience and balance on its latest playoff run.
Seniors hold the top five places on the team’s scoring list, and that doesn’t even include pass-first point guard Emmanuel Matey. A senior starter, Matey dished out nine assists in Friday’s victory and will now be tested with a matchup against dynamic North Point senior Marquis Wright in the state semifinal.
Against Wise, senior Tiwian Kendley provided the boost Eleanor Roosevelt (25-1) needed with 10 of his 12 points in the final quarter.
Senior Malachi Alexander, a three-year starter, has been the offensive standout of late, averaging 21.5 points in his past four games. The 6-foot-7 forward headed to Holy Cross has hit 12 of his 26 three-pointers this season in his past three games.
Senior Trevor Evans, one of the area’s top outside shooters, scored just four points against Wise, but he remains the team’s leading scorer at 13 points per game.
Last year, Eleanor Roosevelt held off North Point, 65-63, on a reverse layup by then-senior Akil Charles with two seconds remaining to get to their first final since 2006. There, the Raiders fell to Magruder, 39-36, in a tense, grinding contest. Magruder plays Baltimore Polytechnic in the other state semifinal, so a championship rematch could be on tap for Saturday evening.
Eleanor Roosevelt won its only state crown in 2002 under current Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello.
“It feels awesome,” Kendley said of a return trip to Comcast Center. “Now this time we’ve got to go there and take care of business.”
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