Boys Basketball: Magruder Falls to Eleanor Roosevelt in State Final

by Eric Meany

Magruder senior and George Washington University recruit Nick Griffin (left) and Eleanor Roosevelt's Lerenzo Foote battle for position during Saturday's state title game.

Magruder senior Nick Griffin (left) and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Lerenzo Foote battle for position during Saturday’s state title game.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — After the Magruder High School boys basketball team’s 62-50 victory over Baltimore Polytechnic Institute on Thursday, Colonels coach Dan Harwood was asked to compare this year’s squad to the team that won the Class 4A state championship in 2012. His thoughts immediately turned to two inside players who graduated last year.

“Garland Owens,” Harwood said without hesitation. “He was a force inside. And then Luke Ruland was six-eight, he took up a lot of space. But overall, I think the main thing is we miss Garland’s presence.”

Even after a decisive victory, Harwood sensed that this year’s Magruder team was vulnerable inside. And in their 61-56 loss to Eleanor Roosevelt in the final of the MPSSAA State Championship Tournament at the Comcast Center on Saturday, that weakness was exploited to great effect. The Raiders grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and held the Colonels without a single free-throw attempt in reversing the outcome of last year’s championship game between the same two teams and winning the second state title in the history of the Prince George’s County school.

“We couldn’t get to the foul line tonight, we couldn’t penetrate against them,” Harwood said. “To get fouls you have to get inside. We just didn’t get inside enough.”

Holy Cross recruit Malachi Alexander grabbed 16 rebounds in 22 minutes of play and senior forward Jesse Ason dominated the paint in the first half for the Raiders (26-1) as the smaller Colonels (24-3) struggled to get near the basket on either end of the floor.

From the opening tip both teams played with a frenetic energy that contrasted greatly with the defensive battle the two teams waged in last year’s championship game. Although Magruder never led, they matched the Raiders basket-for-basket in the early going. Then, with the score tied at 12 with 2:35 left in the first quarter, Tiwian Kendley’s alley-oop dunk gave the Raiders the lead for good and gave Roosevelt’s boisterous student section something to get excited about.

“Our crowd is, like, huge,” Roosevelt guard Trevor Evans said. “You know, it really motivates us every game and today it seemed like they were on a whole other level. They might have been almost as excited as we were.”

Both teams maintained their high energy level through the opening minutes of the second quarter, but neither squad could sink a field goal until Matt Ricketts hit a 3-pointer with 5:03 left in the first half to pull Magruder to within five points at 23-18. J.J. Epps scored seven points in the last four minutes of the second quarter to keep the Colonels close, and at halftime they trailed by just three at 31-28.

The second half opened in promising fashion for Magruder as Brian Coleman scored after grabbing an air-mailed 3-point attempt by Ricketts to cut Roosevelt’s lead to one. But after two minutes of scoreless play, Kendley then tipped in a miss by Alexander to spark a 12-0 run for the Raiders over the next three minutes that gave Roosevelt a 43-30 lead. The Colonels gathered themselves after the Raiders’ impressive run, and Joe Hugley’s 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer cut the deficit to six.

Kendley’s fast-break layup off of a steal 10 seconds into the fourth quarter gave Roosevelt a 45-37 advantage, but Magruder chipped away until a 3-pointer by Epps with 3:20 left in the game brought the Colonels to within three. After that, though, a flurry of missed 3-pointers for Magruder and a series of trips to the foul line for Roosevelt kept the game from getting any closer.

Saturday’s matchup was the third meeting between Magruder and Roosevelt in a state final, with the Colonels having prevailed in 2001 and 2012.

“People keep talking about the rematch, but I wasn’t really looking at it that way,” Roosevelt coach Brendan O’Connell said. “They’re two different teams. I felt like we were a better offensive team this year, so if we could play the defense we did last year I thought we could do a better job scoring.”

Kendley led all scorers with 19 points, while Ason and Trevor Evans each scored 10 for the Raiders. Epps led the Colonels with 14 points.

For Harwood and the Colonels, who will lose all five starters to graduation, Saturday’s defeat marked the end of an era.

“Like I told the kids after the game, I’m disappointed we lost but I’m more sad that my eight seniors are gone,” Harwood said. “I’ve spent so much time with these kids, and they’re much better kids than they are players. It was just an honor for me and a privilege for me to coach these kids.”

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