The stampede began like many Eleanor Roosevelt boys’ basketball games have this year, with a stickback lay-in that showcased its superior length. But on Saturday night, the Raiders were only getting started.
First came delicate floaters, a couple swished three-pointers and pinpoint passes to set up wide-open shot after wide-open shot. Then a wave of forced turnovers and fast-breaks followed. Soon enough, senior Victor Okafor had risen up for another alley-oop jam that sent the fans from Greenbelt at Xfinity Center into a frenzy.
Before No. 11 Meade could catch its breath, any chance of becoming the first Anne Arundel County school to win back-to-back state championships was effectively over. Fifth-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt made sure of it, cruising to a 72-39 win in the Maryland 4A state final Saturday that was as ruthless as it was efficient.
The Raiders opened on a 13-2 run, led by as many as 28 points in the first half and never let up en route to their second state title in four years. A year after Meade blew out Bethesda-Chevy Chase in the title game, Eleanor Roosevelt (24-3) returned the favor.
“It was an eye opener,” said senior Naji Marshall, who led the way with 21 points. “I thought it was going to be a 32-minute game, back-and-forth.”
Indeed, the Raiders had to gut out an eight-point win when these two teams met back in December during the regular season. But they elevated their game to another level Saturday night, finishing with 60 points in the paint by “forcing the ball inside” at will to counter Meade’s 2-3 zone, senior Trent Bishop said.
“We haven’t scored 60 points in half our games, let alone in the paint,” Coach Brendan O’Connell said.
Jaden Faulkner had 16 points and Bishop had 13, but Eleanor Roosevelt’s defensive strategy — “Don’t let Tristan beat us,” Marshall said — also was impressive.
Meade senior Tristan Easton tied his season-low with six points and battled foul trouble the entire game as the Raiders face-guarded him wherever he went. No Mustang finished in double figures in scoring, with Kodie Jackson posting a team-high nine points.
But even if Meade (23-4) had been clicking on all cylinders, it may not have been enough to slow down Eleanor Roosevelt’s momentum. Its focus was evident almost from the opening tip, and the second half turned into an extended celebration.
Once the final buzzer sounded, Marshall even led the team in one more pre-game drill. On command, the Raiders shuffled their feet back-and-forth in a defensive stance, dove to the floor as if chasing a loose ball and then came together in one last dogpile. They didn’t want this night to end.
“It feels good to save the best game for last,” O’Connell said.