Imhotep reaches 4A semifinals, sparked by David Beatty's defense

Imhotep senior David Beatty is one of the most offensively gifted guards in the state.

At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Beatty is a wing that elevates with ease, can shoot effectively from deep and also power his way to the basket.

In Game 1 of Sunday's doubleheader at the Liacouras Center, however, Beatty's dynamic defense helped the Panthers best Audenried, 70-51, in the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals.

Daron Russell led the Panthers with 24 points, but Beatty, a South Carolina commit, added 19 more and perhaps more importantly added seven steals.

"When Dave is locked into playing defense that way, whether it's on or off the ball, we're probably unbeatable," said Imhotep assistant coach Tahar Sutton. "When he's doing that...there's not many teams in the country that's gonna beat us."

Almost immediately after the Panthers prevailed, coach Andre Noble hurried toward Bethlehem, where West Philadelphia played Greater Nanticoke in the other 4A quarterfinal.

The Panthers semifinal contest will take place Tuesday at a time and locale to be determined.

In Game 2 on Sunday, Reading, led by sensational senior Lonnie Walker's 20 points, downed Plymouth-Whitemarsh, 70-61, in a Class 6A quarterfinal.

On Tuesday night at the Liacouras Center, Reading will play Archbishop Ryan in the semifinals.

On Sunday, Imhotep (29-2) was tested early and often.

Nisheem McNeal-Wright, a senior guard for Audenried (19-5), made sure the Rockets had to be reckoned with in the first half.

The ultra-athletic McNeal-Wright struck early with back-to-back steals that ended in back-to-back dunks for the 6-1 wing.

He finished with a team-high 19 points, and his 4-point play in the second quarter helped erase what was once a seven-point Imhotep advantage.

Powered by their defense, however, the Panthers regained control in the third quarter after leading, 37-34, at intermission.

"I think we just had more will and just realized they were a tough team and that they weren't gonna lay down," Beatty said. "We just had to put our foot on their throats and keep pushing."

The Panthers forced the Rockets into 24 turnovers, including 17 in the first half.

"Everybody on our team is mobile, everybody can slide their feet and everybody just goes hard," Beatty said. "...We just have heart and we're just not gonna let (offensive) things happen."

Donta Scott, a versatile, long-armed sophomore, finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals.

When the Panthers employed a 1-3-1 zone defense in the second half, Scott's 6-5 frame wreaked havoc.

"I'm just trying to figure out how to make my game an all-around game," Beatty said.

Later he added: "You're not a great player if you only can score and can't play defense against anybody."

Russell finished 8 of 18 from the field. Beatty finished 6 of 18.

Foul trouble also plagued the Rockets late. McNeal-Wright fouled out with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Terence Moore coupled 15 rebounds with nine points for the Rockets, who shot just 10 of 24 from the foul line.

Imhotep senior Koby Thomas, a Robert Morris commit, isn't likely to play for the Panthers again this season, according to Sutton, who cited "in-house" reasons.

Thomas was a key contributor off the bench this season during the Panthers' Public League title run.

Imhotep 17 20 15 18 - 70

Audenried 14 20 13 4 - 51

IM: Daron Russell 24, Dave Beatty 19, Donta Scott 15, Chereef Knox 6, Jamil Riggins 1, Dahmir Bishop 3, Elijah Taylor 2.

AR: Nisheem McNeal-Wright 19, Shaheed Fagan-Haynes 4, Abdul Azeem-Bey 5, Terence Moore 9, Dwayne Parks 6, Damir Prescott 8.

cartera@phillynews.com

@AceCarterINQ

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