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Roosevelt wins rematch
Defending champions fall 70-60
(Published January 24, 2005)

By MICHAEL HOFFMAN
Staff Writer

If one word could be used to describe the Jan. 21 Cardozo-Roosevelt boys varsity basketball game, which re-matched last year's D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship that Cardozo won, it would be "frantic."

Precision passes were thrown up court over the outstretched hands of defenders, and both teams wasted nary a moment in counter-attacking after pulling down a defensive rebound up court. At times, the pace and adrenaline got the better of both teams as Cardozo and Roosevelt guards would sometimes drive to the basket without having some on of their teammates down court, or attempt risky entry passes down court that would often be intercepted.

In the end, though, Roosevelt's Rough Riders would use the frenetic pace of the game and speed of their guards to full advantage, trapping the Clerks with a vicious full court press that created numerous turnovers and points in a 70-60 victory over Cardozo.

Roosevelt was led by junior center Jeffery Owens, who after shaking off a first quarter where he dropped numerous passes down low for turnovers, ended the game strong -- scoring 19 points for his team during a game in which he would also dominate with his rebounding.

"In the first half, I was letting them take me out of the game, so in the second half, I had to turn it up and play hard, so we could get the victory," Owens said.

In many ways, Owens' game mirrored that of the entire Roosevelt squad.

Cardozo powered itself to a lead early through the presence of forwards Yusef Kendall and Thomas Slaughter Makei, who through the first quarter took not only Owens, but every Roosevelt player out of the game.

While Roosevelt could not buy a basket, Cardozo guard Lester Williams simply could not miss. Williams displayed a smooth stroke, sinking three of his first four three-point attempts -- the last one being a 20 footer from dead center as the buzzer sounded on the first quarter, to give Cardozo a 15-6 lead.

Things would get better for Roosevelt as the Rough Riders would begin to shake off their opening rust and play some steady defense. That rust-removing play would be keyed by junior forward Todd Green, who would grab numerous rebounds and appear out of nowhere to block Clerks guard Williams' lay-up, after most of the Roosevelt players were beat by Antonio Cooper’s pass that went over their head while Roosevelt was on full court press.

Green’s most impressive play came toward the end of the half. After receiving an entry pass from a Roosevelt guard, Green shifted his dribble under the basket, evaded a taller defender and, once clear, nimbly hoisted a lay-up shot while getting slapped on the arm. Green hit the free throw and the first half ended with Roosevelt cutting the Cardozo lead to 26-21.

During the third quarter, a rejuvenated Owens would dominate down low and have no trouble handling the passes that gave him trouble during the first half. Owens would get Roosevelt into striking distance. Receiving a pass from Watson on the left side, he quickly spun toward the basket and leaned in, laying the ball up over Yusef Kendall, who offered Owens almost no resistance, making the score 31-30 with five minutes left in the third quarter.

After pulling down a tough defensive rebound, Roosevelt would then get its first lead of the game as Rough Riders guard Charles Wallace, dribbling the ball on the right side, would notice Mason Binion cutting in toward him near the free throw line on the right. Wallace made the pass to Binion, and Binion drove down the lane, stopping and drawing his defender off guard before jumping slightly to his left and banking the ball off the glass to give Roosevelt its first lead, 32-31.

The third quarter would become a back and forth battle, with Cardozo regaining the lead again off a Williams jump shot, but the stifling full-court defense of Roosevelt would help the Rough Riders hold a 43-41 lead by the end of the third.

To open the game, Roosevelt had clearly carried the look of a confused team, a team that was overwhelmed by the defending City Title champion Cardozo Clerks. By the third quarter, though, Roosevelt played as if they not only deserved a stage with the city champs, but showed they wanted that stage for themselves.

Of course, Cardozo wasn’t about to let that happen easily. But by the fourth quarter, the Clerks clearly looked like the confused team, not the defending city champion.

The first minute of the quarter started with a 6-0 run by Roosevelt, as Riders double-teamed whoever happened to be the Cardozo ball-handler in his own end. This led to a number of risky passes, which Roosevelt was able to steal and convert into points as it built a 49-41 lead. Cardozo, through the scoring of Lester Williams, was able to cut into that lead during a number of points in the final quarter. But more often than not, Cardozo played with reckless abandon on defense as Antonio Cooper and Lester Williams would often drive down the court ahead of the other players and attempt to bring Cardozo back into the game themselves. This did not work out, as Roosevelt's Owens played even stronger down the stretch. Timely free-throw shooting sealed the 70-60 win for Roosevelt, with the Riders achieving a little bit of revenge against their rivals for last year's title, a loss that can still be felt.

"The city finals should have been ours. We just came out today, and did what we had to do. We played hard and played for ourselves," said Roosevelt senior Rashaad Gardner. "Nobody's gonna come into our house and think they're gonna run our gym."

Copyright © 2005 The Common Denominator