With just nine players on the roster and a tight player rotation during games, the strength of the second-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt High School girls basketball team does not lie in overall depth, but what the Raiders lack in quantity, they more than make up for in quality.
In fact, Roosevelt boasts perhaps the most potent starting five in the county, if not beyond. It owns a 13-0 mark through Friday's 48-44 win against Bowie to secure first place alone atop the County 4A League standings with a 10-0 division record.
The powerful quintet is paced by an athletic and physical frontcourt tandem in Tolu Omokore and Sandra Okafor, who routinely control the paint with loads of rebounds, blocked shots and layups.
“Tolu's going to get hers and Sandra's going to get hers eventually and Tolu's going to grab rebounds,” Raiders coach Delton Fuller said. “I tell them to just take care of the ball, share the ball. When it's your turn, step up and make the play. Tolu and Sandra, nobody can stop them, but Tolu and Sandra.”
Omokore entered the week as the team's top scorer, averaging 14.7 points per game. She was limited to six points in the win against Bowie, but Omokore recorded 24 rebounds. She had 11 points and 15 rebounds in a win against Suitland earlier this season as well as 19 points against Surrattsville and Northwestern and 16 points and 10 rebounds in a win against Charles H. Flowers.
While those girls patrol the free throw lane, a trio of versatile and talented guards comprise the backcourt — Daria Simmons, Kaila Charles and Jazmin Faulkner — and rule the perimeter with their ability to handle the ball, cause havoc on defense and score from all over the court.
“Some teams can't match up with us so we use that to our advantage,” Simmons said. “We can run when we want to run. We can get shots that we like. Sometimes it falls apart; we just have to work together. This team can do something really special like our coach said. We just got to stay together, work together. Work as a family. We're all in it together.”
Simmons and Charles, perhaps the top freshman in the county, provide the Raiders with a pair of slashers who dominate opponents with drives to the hoop or on fastbreak opportunities. Simmons, who has scored 20 or more points on three occasions, averages 14.1 points per game; Charles checks in at 12.4 points per game.
“We have a freshman; she plays the three,” said Faulkner of Charles. “Basically she's a big factor for us. We didn't know Kaila was coming at all. When she came, everything just fell in place; everything just clicked. We had people who know the game of basketball and everybody can play. Everybody can dribble; everybody can shoot.”
Charles, who has reached double figures on 11 occasions, and Simmons can also handle the ball against opposing presses to help out the steady Faulkner, the team's point guard who was averaging 11.8 points a contest.
“I told them there's no secret; you've got four people on our team in double figures,” Fuller said. “If you look across the board in the county, nobody has four scorers in double digits. Daira could be hot one night, Jaz could be hot.
“I tell them all the time. Don't get a big head. Keep playing hard. It's tough when you're at the top. There's only one way to go and that's down. They have a set of goals in our team room and one of them is to win county and after county, it's take it to the next level [the playoffs].”