When last week ended, both the Sankofa Warriors and the Abraham Lincoln Railsplitters were tied up at the top of Liberty (aka “B”) division of the Philadelphia Public League; both were undefeated and headed for a showdown game on Tuesday, January 23. A bump on the road occurred for Lincoln on Monday, as they suffered a surprising loss to Frankford 63-50, leaving only one team with an unblemished record.
Nevertheless, these were the top two teams in the division facing up against each other. Lincoln is a large school and plays in the 6A classification, while Sankofa is at the other end of the scale: a very small school, under 94 boys, which plays in the A class. The Railsplitters made it to the second round of the state playoffs last year, and the Warriors did the same. Those are both big accomplishments for these two programs, and both are hoping to return to the states this year.
This game was played at the very, shall we say, “sloppy” level and yet it was entertaining at the same time. There were 61 fouls, including two taunting techs, called in total, with 29 in the first half and 32 in the second. Both teams were guilty as Sankofa had 32 and Lincoln had 29 fouls. Lincoln got to the line for 40 free throws, but only hit on 24 (60 percent). There were also many, many turnovers.
Yet, despite the preceding, there was some impressive athleticism shown by both squads, and at a number of points some nice skill moves along with it. Lincoln starts 7’ plus Pedro Matos, who is still learning the ropes of the game, but works very hard when on the court. He was not a factor in the scoring, but pulled some rebounds. As he gets more and more time on the court, he may become useful down the road with his enormous size.
Lincoln’s Tyree Corbett ended up with 16, matching his counterpart leading scorer Khalil Turner, who also had nine boards, five steals and two assists for the Warriors to earn scoring honors. Corbett has certainly bounced around in his young career, now playing for his fourth high school basketball program. He’s had previous stops at West Catholic, West Philadelphia and Frankford (earlier this season). At 6’6”, he came off the bench yesterday for this deep team. He can run, is very long, left handed and has a nice skill set. He quickly scored nine in the third quarter to help put his team up 56-44 after leading by just two at the break.
Jahi (JR) Randall added 12 for Lincoln, coming back from a brief injury to his leg. He also pulled nine rebounds. He’s a very strong presence on the court and the Railsplitters are happy to see him back. Scott Spann for Sankofa is normally the leading scorer, but was held to 12, with eight rebounds. He picked up his fourth foul in the first half, and had to be limited in playing time subsequent to that.
The final score was 78-66 in favor of Lincoln, leaving no undefeated teams in the Liberty division. Expect to hear from each of these teams as we near the end of the season. Lincoln, coached by Al Brown, has Boys’ Latin Charter, Imhotep Charter, Audenried and West Philadelphia remaining. Sankofa, which is coached by Isaiah Thomas, has Carver High School of Engineering & Science, Benjamin Franklin and Gorge Washington left. Both of these life-long basketball men are quality coaches and have a nice staff of assistants to help them.
Public league playoffs are organized by the “last team standing” for class champions. This means that as the playoffs are played out to the ultimate champion, a class winner will be declared (1A through 6A) by that principal.
This would have been the first year since 1979 that an overall Public League champion will be crowned, which will then be matched up against the PCL champion. However, within the last couple of days, the PIAA has ruled against the return of the "true" City Championships.
Prior to the court dispute of 1979 in regard to Title IX filed by the then coach of girls’ basketball at University City, Lurline Jones (the formidable but diminutive queen of girls’ basketball), this was the big game of the year in Philadelphia. It only included boys. The game was cancelled by the PCL, and the suit remained extant until the Pub joined the PIAA in 2004 and the PCL in 2007. No attempt to reinstitute the final game was made until this year, and as noted above, it was stuck down by the PIAA.
This year’s competition was to include the girls for the first time in history, a long and storied one that goes back about 100 years. As of now, the Pub will return to the Palestra for their final games, a venue it has not been able to use since a shooting incident many years ago.
The District XII city championship games in each class will be played. This will pit the Pub (1A through 6A) vs. the PCL (1A through 6A), boys and girls. Then depending on the class level a specified number of teams will be invited to the state playoffs. It sounds complicated, but it affords lots of post season possibilities for all of the city teams.