The Washington Post
This time, Pumas get the upper hand on Raiders
For the first 30 minutes of Tuesday’s Maryland 4A region semifinal, life as a Wise Puma was pure bliss. As the Pumas built multiple leads of 15-plus points, seemingly every shot found a home at the bottom of the net and every loose ball ended up in their waiting arms.
But just as it appeared Wise was sure to find a home in the region final, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Gio Sanford scored 11 points in the final 90 seconds to set up a potential game-tying heave at the buzzer. It rimmed out, and Wise escaped with a 73-70 victory in Upper Marlboro.
“Man, I’m going to be honest with you,” Wise senior Jaden Johnson said. “I thought he cashed that shot for sure. Things got so hectic at the end, it felt like it was only right, but I’m so happy he missed it.”
The Pumas (21-3) and Raiders (13-10) are very familiar with each other. Last season, Eleanor Roosevelt twice thumped Wise by 20-plus points, including a 30point shellacking in the region final. But in this season’s two meetings, each won by Wise, the games were decided by a total of nine points.
“With how we went out last year, it was important for us to get them out of here this season,” Johnson said. “Losing like that hurt us real bad, so one of our goals this season was to return the favor.”
On Thursday, the Pumas will host Bowie with a trip to states at stake.
“All season long, our leaders have remained poised in moments like this,” Wise Coach Lou Wilson said. “Obviously, we don’t want to blow a big lead and pray a shot misses, but as a team we definitely aren’t afraid of these moments.”
With Johnson, the Prince George’s County 4A player of the year, held to 11 points, the Pumas looked to Staccardo Washington to carry the load. The senior didn’t disappoint: He made six free throws down the stretch and finished with 20 points.
“It always makes us laugh when teams try to take [Johnson] out of the game, because we really have a team of dudes that can make stuff happen,” Washington said. “. . . Everybody is capable of stepping up when it’s time.”
For Eleanor Roosevelt, almost everything about Tuesday’s loss was unfamiliar. A year after cutting down the nets at Xfinity Center as the state champions, the Raiders were playing a road playoff game for the first time since at least 2016.
Sanford led the way with 28 points and seven rebounds. Navy commit Tobi Raji had six points and 18 rebounds.
“To be down by however much we were down there and have a shot at the buzzer to go to OT says a lot about our team,” Raiders Coach Brendan O’connell said. “We didn’t reach our ultimate goal, but this season was by no means a failure. We’ll be back on the biggest stages soon.”