Imhotep girls come from behind to win Public League crown

The Imhotep Panthers were already on their way, but junior guard Jessica Charles provided perhaps the biggest boost in her team’s 69-59 Public League title win against previous champion Mastery North on Sunday afternoon at the Palestra.

With about two minutes left in the third quarter and Imhotep trailing, Charles punctuated a sequence that began with a three-pointer by fellow junior Alana Swift and ended with sophomore Zamara Haynes’ layup after a foul.

That play, along with her team-high 17 points, helped Charles win the game’s MVP award.

“Everybody told me that was the one play that brought our momentum and intensity back to the game,” she said.

“Just the tip and the hustle was momentum by itself even if we didn’t get the layup,” Swift said. “Defense won us that game. That was our game plan. We needed to get stops and the offense would take care of itself.”

Swift added 14 points of her own, while Shayla Green and Zamara Haynes finished with 10 and 14 points, respectively.

The Panthers had trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half before whittling the Pumas’ edge to 9 by halftime.

They had also trailed by double digits in last year’s finale against Mastery North.

“Shows a lot of growth,” Swift said.

Her coach, David Hargrove, agreed.

“Them getting us last year was nothing but fuel to our fire,” he said. “I think our kids came back with more of a sense of hunger, a sense of humility and then listened, worked hard and played for each other.”

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Imhotep’s Jessica Charles (right) defends against Mastery North’s Nehemiah Johnson during the Public League championship on Sunday.

Before Swift buried the three, the Panthers had trailed, 46-38. Charles immediately came up with a steal and before she crashed into the front-row seats, flicked the ball to Haynes, who Euro-stepped her way to two points and a foul.

By the end of Quarter No. 3, however, Imhotep still trailed by two, which Shaylah Green took care of with an early three-pointer.

Back-to-back triples by Smith, the second with 3 minutes, 34 seconds left, gave the Panthers a 61-55 edge they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mastery North was led by senior guard Nahemiah Johnson, who finished with 15 points. Sophomore Angela Sanders added 14, while senior Kayla Griffin and junior Alanis Hill added 10 points apiece.

Imhotep 12 11 24 22 69
Mastery North 12 20 17 10 59

IM: Jessica Charles 17, Shayla Green 14, Alana Swift 14, Zamara Haynes 10, Mary Parker 8, Alyssa Herder 2, Quiana Cintron 2, Ayasha Thomas 2.

MN: Nahemiah Johnson 15, Angela Sanders 14, Kayla Griffin 10, Alanis Hill 10, Jasmine Lewis 4, Ashanti Wright 6.