"It's All About The Game"
Raiders are Sharper Than Sabers, Advance to Finals
Ron Bailey, Publisher
Dodson, O'Connell, Morris in Presser
March 10, 2006 – The Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders (25-1) are one step away from their goal of winning the 2006 4A State Championship, after defeating the Baltimore’s Southwestern Sabers (23-4), 70-44 last night, in a Maryland State semifinal match up. Southwestern’s last lead was early in the second quarter (14-13), and from that point on Roosevelt, coached by Brendan O’Connell, outscored the Sabers, led by Terry Leverett 57-30.
From the outset, it was clear that Southwestern’s high scoring, Providence College bound senior guard, Jamal Barney (9 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals), was a defensive target of the Raiders. Roosevelt denied him the ball, solely dedicated a defender to him in their man-to-man sets, and applied physical pressure to Jamal, at all times.
O’Connell elaborated on their game plan against Barney afterward: “We wanted to make sure he didn’t touch the ball. Every now and then, we ran another guy at him. The kids did a great job of executing…He’s a great player. We knew we weren’t going to shut him down, we were just trying to limit him”.
In his post game interview, Barney would opine, “They just played real good defense on me. They just kept trapping at half court, and we couldn’t get any offensive motion”
While they successfully limited the Saber’s number one offensive option, Roosevelt established their inside game, which later provided opportunities for outside shooters, and guards driving to the cup. Future St. Bonaventure player, senior Jourdan Morris (16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) was the chief inside threat, getting to the basket for layups frequently, like he did consecutively with around five minutes to play in the second quarter.
“I know that’s my job, to attack the rim” said Morris. “When my teammates feed me the ball, that’s what I’m going to do”. He then lauded the Raider’s “guard’s for doing a good job of getting everybody involved”.
Junior swingman, Darnell Dodson (15 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 steals) repeatedly made Southwestern pay, particularly in the second half, for concentrating on Morris, and junior Sean Hawkins (5 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 steal), when those two received the ball near the rim.
After scoring five points in the first half, Dodson helped to break the game open in the third quarter. With the score a 39-29 Raider advantage, Dodson drove for two points, and then afterward hit a three pointer followed by a long two, creating a 46-32 lead for his team.
Southwestern’s Leverett indicated those shots were huge, as his team was developing momentum, and “within two minutes” they fell into a deep deficit, of which “we could never recover”. Barney felt similarly, as he stated “When the big kid (Dodson, who stands six foot six) hit the three, our momentum left, and we just couldn’t get it back”.
Dodson, ever self-effacing, indicated his fellow Raiders had much to do with his scoring binge. “My teammates told me ‘to shoot the ball…and to focus more on the rim, because they noticed I wasn’t focusing. They told me to set my feet and just really pay attention to the way I’m shooting”.
Jon Notoko (14 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) also a senior, played off his team’s success at the rim to hit outside shots and slash to the basket. His picture perfect three point jumper, which extended his team’s lead earlier in the third quarter, and his nice baseline layup in the fourth, stand as excellent representations of his contribution.
Though Barney couldn’t get on track, his teammate at Southwestern and Cecil Kirk AAU, senior Jarwand Rheubottom (17 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 block, 1 steal) did – particularly in the second half.
According to Leverett, the defense on Barney limited his team offensively, but there was an additional factor present as well. “Really what cost us dearly was our turnovers (26)” he said. “That’s crucial in a basketball game”.
A sad reality is that this may have been the final time Southwestern High School takes the floor, since the school may be closed after this season. According to Leverett “the students would be transferred to schools all over the place” if the shutdown is effectuated.
The Sabers were quite aware of this, as their coach, Leverett, stated “That’s what we’ve been preaching, since we heard the news. Getting in (the state semifinals), winning, maybe going out on top…they sent the school off well”.
According to Rheubottom, “We had a great season, even though it started off slow”. Barney, as did the rest of Southwestern’s team, wanted to win a “state championship”, but he did feel a sense of accomplishment for “winning a regional championship and a conference championship”.
Though the road has ended this season, and possibly going forward for Southwestern, Roosevelt lives to play another day. They take on Montgomery County’s Walt Whitman Saturday night, at 8 pm. To prepare his team, O’Connell planed to “Watch the game now (Whitman’s), to see what happens. Tomorrow we have practice, and we’ll work on what we see, and then we’ll be back here Saturday”.
If you can’t make this Prince George’s – Montgomery
County tilt, check i95Ballerz.com for game coverage. In fact, even if
you are at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center, come back
and read our report. It is sure to be informative, balanced, and accurate.
Barney, Rhuebottom, and Leverett in Presser
Roosevelt's Cheer Squad
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