PHILADELPHIA, PA –
In what was a tough, physical, low-scoring affair at Hagan Arena on the campus of St. Joseph’s University, the Imhotep Charter Panthers needed overtime to defeat the Martin Luther King Cougars, 53-49, to win the Philadelphia Public League boys basketball championship. Imhotep was led by Rhode Island commit Daron Russell, who scored 24 points, while King was led by guard Jihad Watson with 13 points and forward Elijah Kiah-El with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The first half was an extremely even game with King leading 12-11 after the first quarter and the two teams tied at 21 apiece at the half. The third quarter was the best stanza for King, thanks in large part to Watson and center Will McNair. Watson drove the lane and scored within 10-feet a few times and McNair, who missed all but two minutes of the first half because of foul trouble, was now in the game and hitting baby jumpers from 5-feet away. The Cougars took a 38-32 lead into the 4th quarter.
But Imhotep played like a champion with the game on the line and Russell, who struggled with his outside shot most of the game, hit a big three-pointer and some free throws to pull Imhotep within one, 40-39, with just two minutes gone by in the 4th.
Much like the girls basketball championship that preceded it, this game had a wild finish as well. With the game tied at 44 and 1:33 remaining in regulation, Imhotep head coach Andre Noble called a timeout and elected to hold for one final shot. In the end, they got a good luck from three by guard Bernard Lightsey was off target. After the offensive rebound put back was thwarted by McNair, guard Denelle Holly rushed up the floor, lost the ball at midcourt where it was picked up by McNair. As the buzzer went off and the red lights went on, McNair lofted a shot from just inside the halfcourt line that banked in. The King fans exploded but then immediately realized the shot had been launched after the buzzer sounded and this championship game would be headed to overtime.
In the extra frame, Imhotep scored the first four points before Kiah-El hit tough shot in the lane to make it 48-46. After a miss by Imhotep, King worked the ball down low to McNair who had a wide open look for three-feet away, decided to go for the emphatic slam dunk, and ended up being rejected by the rim. From that point on, King had been forced to foul and Russell sealed the win and the championship with free throws.
Both teams will next play in their respected city/district title games next week with Imhotep taking on Conwell-Egan for the 4A title and King battling Archbishop Wood for the 5A championship.
(Photo Credit: Amanda Dedieu)