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State basketball champs still celebrating


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Photo by Daniel Kucin. Maxpreps and the Army National Guard honor the Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders, who won the Maryland 4A Championship against Magruder, during a Tour of Champions stop Wednesday, April 24, 2013,  in Greenbelt.

Photo by Daniel Kucin. Maxpreps and the Army National Guard honor the Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders, who won the Maryland 4A Championship against Magruder, during a Tour of Champions stop Wednesday, April 24, 2013, in Greenbelt.

Published on: Wednesday, May 01, 2013

By Daniel Kucin

The Eleanor Roosevelt boys’ basketball team was honored last Wednesday for its magical season that was capped off with winning the 4A state championship.

Maxpreps, a CBS affiliate regarded as the leading online high school sports destination for their coverage of high school sports around the nation, and the Army National Guard stopped by the Greenbelt high school to recognize the state title holders as part of the Tour of Champions.

The celebration was set in the school’s gymnasium with a pep rally to congratulate the star student-athletes who won 27 games en route to their school's second state title. Despite reaching the state title game for four consecutive years to no avail, the Raiders finally defeated Magruder 61-56 at Comcast Center in College Park.

The Tour of Champions is still going strong and includes Eleanor Roosevelt as of the 10 schools selected to receive the prestigious honor. The Raiders were chosen for being ranked No. 87 in the final rankings system.

Photo by Daniel Kucin. Brendan O’Connell, Eleanor Roosevelt boy’s basketball head coach, takes a gander at the Tour of Champions award.

Photo by Daniel Kucin. Brendan O’Connell, Eleanor Roosevelt boy’s basketball head coach, takes a gander at the Tour of Champions award.

“We are honored that the National Guard is here, but the cool thing for me is that we can do this for the whole school,” said Eleanor Roosevelt head coach Brendan O’Connell. “The support that we got every single game was unbelievable, and the fact that we could have one last celebration in front of everyone really means a lot.”

The Raiders’ journey started against a bitter rival, the DuVal Tigers, at home in the third week of the regular season, but the Raiders slipped by the Tigers in dramatic fashion, 59-58. The only time the Raiders dropped the ball all season was against Bowie in a heartbreaking loss. Dejaun Smith hit a 3-pointer with one second remaining to force an overtime period. But, the Raiders did not have enough time to recover.

Faced by adversity all year, the Raiders redeemed themselves in the sequel by starting the game ahead by 17 points, and senior guard Tiwian Kendley led his team in scoring with 14 points to clinch a 26-point victory in the rematch. Senior point guard and Morgan State commit Emmanuel Matey knew that the playoffs would hold more challenges ahead. The regional final game against Wise proved to be the turning point.

“We were down a lot, and it was a really close game,” Matey said. “The entire game I kept telling myself that this is not going to be my last high school game to pull out the W. To do it as a team and celebrate after it was probably the biggest game of the season.”

Roosevelt defeated Wise by one point in the final, leaving the Pumas with no timeouts to stop the clock after Wise senior D.J. Nedab hit a 3-pointer for the last score of the contest. Matey’s leadership helped catapult his team to its best record in school history. He averaged seven assists per game and broke the single game assists record against DuVal in their rematch later in the season with 15 dimes.

The core of senior talent and leadership was evident throughout the team’s successful run. Trevor Evans led the league by hitting 79 3-pointers and also shot 90 percent from the line. Kendley and Evans were the Raiders’ leading scorers throughout the 2012-2013 season, and Holy Cross recruit Malachi Alexander provided the muscle in the middle as one of their most dominate defenders.

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