By ANDREW FEATHER
GREENBELT, MD - According to Eleanor Roosevelt junior Naji Marshall, big time players make big time plays. And Marshall made one of those big time plays on Friday night as he sank two free throws with half of a second left to give the Raiders a 53-51 win over Wise.
Coming off of a stretch where he made just one of his last eight shots, Marshall got the ball in his hands with 10 seconds to go, waited out the clock, and with one second to go elevated and was fouled.
If his confidence had taken any hit, Marshall didn’t show it. He calmly drained both free throws, and following a missed desperation heave by Wise, was hoisted into the air by Roosevelt’s student section.
“It wasn’t really pressure,” Marshall said. “You can’t really think about [the situation]. You shoot a million free throws in your life, every free throw has to be the same.”
For much of the game though, it didn’t look like Marshall’s clutch play would be needed.
Roosevelt came out firing on all cylinders, jumping out to an early 10-2 lead and finishing the first quarter leading 17-5.
Wise held the Raiders scoreless through the first five minutes of the second period, but couldn’t generate much offense of its own, scoring just seven points during the stretch to pull the game to 17-12. From there the teams went back and forth before heading into the halftime break with Roosevelt leading 25-20.
Roosevelt stormed out out of the break in a big way, when Marshall stole the ball from Wise’s Mike Speight on one end of the floor, went coast-to-coast and finished a layup through two defenders. The Raiders kept laying it on, building a nine-point lead.|
But Wise wouldn’t go away. With 3:20 left in the third quarter Speight went on a tear, knocking down five shots including four 3-pointers to give the Pumas a 40-37 advantage heading into the final frame.
From there neither team led by more than a basket as Wise junior Darron Barnes scored seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two made free throws to give the Pumas a 51-49 lead with 2:09 to go.
But that’s when Roosevelt coach Brendan O’Connell decided to let his star player “do his thing.”
With 1:23 left, Marshall pushed his way into the post for a lay-up to tie the game, and then following a charge by Wise on the other end, scored the go-ahead free throws to give the Raiders the win.
“He’s a big-time threat,” Raiders senior Delascio Dancy said of Marshall. “Everybody knows coming in to play Roosevelt, you’ve got to worry about number three.”
Marshall scored a game-high 26 points for Eleanor Roosevelt. Speight led Wise with 17, but aside from his 14-point outburst in the third quarter, was a non-factor for most of the night.
“I thought we did a really good job [on Speight],” O’Connell said. “He’s a really good player so we knew we weren’t going to shut him down, but to contain him like that was big.”