Down by seven points midway through the third quarter and without its top scorer on Tuesday against C.H. Flowers, the Eleanor Roosevelt boys’ basketball team once again found a way to keep its perfect record in tact. The third-ranked Raiders held the Jaguars scoreless for more than nine minutes and senior forward Malachi Alexander scored a season-high 18 points in a 49-40 victory.
After falling by three points to Magruder in the Maryland 4A final last March, Eleanor Roosevelt remains unbeaten this season despite trailing in the second half of five of its 11 victories this season.
“We knew we had to work even harder in the second half,” Alexander said of the team’s latest comeback victory against the defending Prince George’s 4A champions. “You don’t want to put yourself in that type of situation against a good team, but I don’t think anybody thought we would lose. I know I didn’t.”
Eleanor Roosevelt (11-0, 8-0) brought back four players from last year’s eight-man rotation, and the experienced group has shown the fortitude to grind out wins in tough situations. The run includes one-point victories against No. 17 DuVal and Wise thanks to heroics from senior Trevor Evans.
On Dec. 11, the Raiders trailed the Tigers by two points in the final seconds before Evans nailed the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. The guard hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left a week later for the final points in a 63-62 win over the Pumas.
Eleanor Roosevelt also needed to rally in wins against McNamara and Suitland before Tuesday’s game against the Jaguars, in which it used an 18-0 run to take control. The team now holds a two-game edge in the Prince George’s 4A standings.
“It’s not like we’re cruising through untested,” Coach Brendan O’Connell said. “Game-by-game we just seem to be able to do enough to win, and I think that will definitely help us later, too.”
A perennial power in the region, Eleanor Roosevelt might have had more talent in recent years, but O’Connell said, “It seems like our pieces fit really well together.”
Alexander, a 6-foot-7 Holy Cross recruit, gives the team a solid presence inside, while Evans has hit 45 percent of his shots from three-point range and 94 percent of his free throw attempts. Senior swingman Tiwian Kendley leads the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game. O’Connell held Kendley out of the C.H. Flowers game because of an off-the-court issue, but he returned for Friday’s 66-42 win over Bladensburg.
At this point, Alexander said the team has spent more time discussing another deep playoff run than worrying about staying perfect. Indeed, O’Connell frequently uses the hashtag #journeyback2comcast on posts to the team’s Twitter page.
The Raiders have made the state tournament three straight seasons and five out of the past seven years, but have not won the state title since 2002 under current Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello. None of those teams made it past January 13 with an unblemished record.
“Losing teaches you a lot,” said Alexander, who averages 9.7 points per game. “We don’t want to lose, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re getting better while we’re winning. [Going] undefeated isn’t really one of our goals.”