Despite Eleanor Roosevelt and Meade combining for a meager 38 points in the first half of Wednesday night’s Rt. 175 Classic title game in Fort Meade, Raiders Coach Brendan O’Connell felt no need to deliver an emphatic halftime address.
Instead, with Roosevelt’s snug defense causing No. 17 Meade problems — the Mustangs scored a season-low 15 in the first half — the message was simple.
“Keep on playing defense,” senior forward Trent Bishop recalled his coach saying midway through Roosevelt’s 62-54 win. “Just keep getting stops, that’s what’s going to keep us in the game.”
And that’s just what they did.
No. 20 Roosevelt (6-2) came out of the half forcing bad shots and turnovers on one end and breaking Meade’s attempt at a full-court press on the other. The combination led to a quick 8-0 run to start the third quarter, capping a 16-1 stretch that started late in the second quarter.
The first four second-half baskets came from within five feet. Bishop finished three of them.
“He can finish around the rim,” senior Naji Marshall said of Bishop. “He’s very strong going up, he gets a lot of rebounds and he is really good under the basket.”
Bishop, who was as effective protecting the rim on defense as he was finishing beneath it on offense, scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half as Roosevelt built its lead to 19 in the third quarter.
Marshall added 12 points of his own and two key full-court assists early in the half, but it was his defense on Anne Arundel County’s leading scorer that made the biggest impact.
Tristan Easton entered the title game 62 points shy of Meade’s all-time scoring record and moved 20 points closer to reaching the mark, but it took him every bit of four quarters to get there. Marshall and senior guard Delascio Dancy played him tight in man-to-man defense for all 32 minutes and held him to 7-of-14 shooting from the field. The Mustangs as a team shot 42 percent.
The 54 points were the fewest Meade has scored this season.
“We take pride in our defense,” Bishop said. “Down at Eleanor Roosevelt, it’s one of our main focuses. We’re not the best offensive team, but we’re always going to sit down and play defense.”