Friday marked a battle of the titans among Maryland high school basketball programs. Unfortunately, only one titan showed up.
Top-ranked Aberdeen was out-run, out-defensed, and out-classed by Eleanor Roosevelt (7-0), 66-41, in the semifinals of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Christmas Tournament at Largo High School.
Aberdeen played without starting point guard Kierra Palmer, and her absence forced coach Amber Milnes to move several players away from their natural positions. Palmer, dealing with a lower leg injury, is not expected to return until mid-January.
"We had to adjust because our point guard was out," Milnes said. "We played a smaller number of players, and that led to them getting tired faster. Take nothing away from [Roosevelt], though. They came out ready to play. They had a great post player, and she was hard to stop."
The player Milnes was referring to was forward Kaila Charles. The sophomore scored a game-high 22 points, including eight in a stretch in the middle of the second quarter that put the Eagles away.
The Eagles trailed early in the second quarter, but managed to keep the margin manageable. After a Stephanie Jones basket and free throw, Roosevelt led 18-17 with 6:06 left in the second quarter.
At that point the Raiders, who are ranked fourth in the Washington, D.C., area by The Washington Post, really got going.
Roosevelt used a high-pressure, 2-2-1 press to create several turnovers that led to easy baskets. Before Aberdeen could catch its breath, the Eagles were the victim of an 11-0 run, and trailed 29-17 with 2:38 left in the half.
To make matters worse, starting forward Katie Sanderson picked up her fifth foul with 1:04 left in the second quarter. That put an even greater strain on the depleted Eagles bench.
Milnes says she will use the loss as a learning experience.
"We need to work harder," she said. "We have to be more mentally and physically ready to play. We can't get down and mentally check out like we did tonight."
Guard Nazje Norton, who led the Eagles with 18 points, said a combination of factors caused the lopsided loss.
"We didn't play our best tonight," Norton said. "We did OK in the early part of the game, but we lost our focus. If we'd have kept our focus better, I think we'd have been ok. We got caught by their pressure."
The Eagles will play Calvert, a 62-59 loser to Mount Vernon (Va.) in the other semifinal, in the third place game Saturday at 4 p.m.
(at Largo High School)
E. Roosevelt 66, Aberdeen 41
E. ROOSEVELT – Davis 10, Jack 2, Charles 22, Baiyina 3, Wilson 11, Omokore 16, Palmer 2. Totals: 27 11-25 66
ABERDEEN – Norton 18, Williams 4, Eller 6, Sanderson 3, Jones 10. Totals: 16 6-11 41. Halftime: ER, 38-23.