WASHINGTON – Eleanor Roosevelt High School senior guard Joemel McNair admitted after their Dec. 14 game against Northern High School that he did not know much about the opponent. That did not matter, though, as the Raiders’ attitude ever changes; no matter who they play.
Whatever name appears on the other jersey, Roosevelt always looks to deliver the knockout punch.
“We didn’t know anything about them,” McNair said. “We just went in with a mindset that we were going to kill whoever they are.”
That happened in the first quarter against the Patriots. The Raiders’ boys basketball team ended the quarter on a 14-2 run to lead 25-10. They proceeded to crush the Calvert County-based school, 72-33, in the second game in the inaugural Washington Wizards High School Showcase at Trinity University in Washington, D.C.
“We just want to outwork them everywhere we can (and) play hard defense to get the offense going,” McNair said. “And that’s what we did today.”
Roosevelt (2-0) was too much for Northern (1-4) from the opening tip, dominating with their speed and relentless play on both ends of the floor. From the starters to the role players off the bench, every Raider player who entered the game played with the same intensity.
“We got 14 guys on our roster,” Head Coach Brendan O’Connell said. “It’s competitive; the practices are competitive. They all want to play. Hopefully, that’s the sign of a good team that there’s no let up, and every guy on this team wants to prove themselves.”
Roosevelt, who lost all five starters from last year’s state championship team, was led by its seniors. Jahari Simon finished with a game-high 17 points, Quinton Mincey added 13 and McNair chipped in with 10 points. Thirty-six of their final combined 40 points came in the first half, as O’Connell went to his bench for most of the second half. Sophomore Carlos Kinard shined in the second half and finished with 13 points.
Roosevelt only led by three points in the first quarter before going on its scoring run, which became too much for Northern. Its press and aggressive defense sped Northern up and made them uncomfortable, leading to rushed shots by the Patriots and easy looks for the Raiders on the other end of the floor. By the end of the quarter, Roosevelt jumped out to a 25-10 lead.
“Pressure and diving for loose balls, that’s what got us going,” Simon said. “Coach said to keep doing that, and don’t worry about the score.”
That continued in the second quarter, as Northern had no answer for the Raiders tenacity and consistent energy. Despite building a big lead, the Raiders still hustled for loose balls and kept the pedal to the metal on the offensive end. They led by as much as 26 in the second quarter and led 44-19 at halftime thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by senior guard Olumide Lewis.
“I feel like the pace was good,” Mincey said. “We played with a nice little tempo.”
The lead grew to 33 by the end of the third quarter and hit the 35-point threshold necessary for a running clock in the fourth quarter on a Jeremiah Jamison layup.
Roosevelt is 2-0 to start the season, having previously defeated Anne Arundel County’s South River High School on Dec. 5. The schedule gets much tougher when the Raiders visit perennial power DeMatha Catholic High School on Dec. 17 before winter break. The Stags won last year’s matchup, 83-75, handing the Raiders the first of two losses on the way to a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A State Championship.
Neither of those losses came against Maryland public school competition, and Roosevelt has now won 23 straight games against Maryland public schools dating back to the start of last year.
Despite the strong start and possible target on their back after winning a championship last year, O’Connell thinks his team has a long way to go. With the returning players from last year taking on more prominent roles this year, he said the Raiders would look to make small improvements early in the season.
“It’s baby steps right now with so many young guys, inexperienced guys, guys that haven’t played a lot,” O’Connell said. “We haven’t been practicing a month yet. We have a long way to go.”