UPPER MARLBORO – Eleanor Roosevelt Head Coach Delton Fuller was in disbelief. Despite holding the Oxon Hill girls’ basketball team to only seven points in the opening quarter, his Lady Raiders did not fare better, only scoring two points via free throws in the same time period during the Prince George’s County Championship on Feb. 22.
“I’ve been coaching for 20 years and never have (my teams) scored only two points in a quarter,” Fuller said. “And for you to say we only scored two points in a quarter and pulled out the victory, I would have said you’re crazy, but that’s what this team is all about.”
It would take two full quarters for the Greenbelt-based squad to fix its scoring woes. Senior guard Ashia McCalla, who could not convert on any field goals in the first half, lead the comeback charge, scoring a team-high 21 points as the Lady Raiders won its fourth county title in five years with a 55-46 victory.
“We needed to step up and wake up because we were really off our game,” Junior guard Taylor McCormick said. “I didn’t know what was going, but we needed to step it up and start scoring.”
With defensive stalwart Nia Scott out due to volleyball commitments, McCalla shouldered the bulk of the leadership responsibilities for Roosevelt (17-3) while still trying to deal with her own shooting issues. Fuller said that he reminded his senior star at halftime that her shooting would improve and to keep trying to score.
“(As a team), I think we were a little nervous, so we were making mistakes that we usually don’t make,” McCalla said. “After we calmed down in the second half, we got comfortable, and we were no longer making the mistakes that we did before.”
Outside of McCormick’s five points, Roosevelt’s struggles were magnified more as the Lady Clippers’s (22-0) pressure defense forced 10 first-half steals. Oxon Hill senior guard Mossi Staples and junior Iyanna Warren exploited the mistakes, creating open shots for themselves.
Midway through the second quarter, Warren received a Staples pass off a steal for the layup before getting driven down to the floor by a Roosevelt defender. The foul setup a three-point play, improving the Clippers lead by seven heading into halftime.
“We focused in on defending the ball early in the first half, we were locked in, and that’s how we were able to keep them to just two points,” Oxon Hill Head Coach Devone Williams said. “You have to give credit to Eleanor Roosevelt for putting their foot down and attacking the basket.”
Roosevelt bounced back thanks to its junior post players, five-foot-ten guard Makayla Adams and six-foot center Dainajoy McFarlane. The duo suffocated passing lanes for Oxon Hill while negating space in the paint for layups. McFarlane added seven points including a three-point play of her own, during a 12-3 run that gave Roosevelt the lead midway through the third quarter.
Together with McCalla’s 19-point second half performance, Roosevelt’s comeback was in full effect. Oxon Hill’s Warren attempted to go toe-to-toe offensively with McCalla, scoring nine of her game-high 22 points after halftime. However, the junior was removed with a cramp during Roosevelt’s scoring run in the third and did not return until the fourth.
With sophomore guard Aniya Wilson unable to get a basket before fouling out and Warren out for a significant amount of time, Oxon Hill could not find a solution to stop the Lady Raiders’ attack.
“In the third quarter, we did not come out as strong as we should have,” Warren said. “We had a nice talk (at halftime), but obviously, our defense was slacking and taking it too lightly. We needed to add more pressure because, on offense, we were good. It was on defense, where we let them get to the basket and score, and that’s where we started to fall off.”
The loss was devastating for Oxon Hill – an undefeated powerhouse during the regular season looking to win their first county championship within the past two decades. For Williams, playing against Roosevelt allowed his team to see their weaknesses and to make improvements before playing in the state playoffs next week.
Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders’ win solidified their continued dominance in girls basketball in the county. Notwithstanding possible challenges from Suitland or Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr., expectations are for Roosevelt win the regionals and compete for the state title at Towson University.
“It felt really good to win (the county championship),” McCormick said. “And now, it’s on the road to states.”