Rick O'Brien's 2018 basketball awards: Coach of the year, player of the year, and more

The Imhotep Charter players celebrate after beating Sharon, 71-35, for the PIAA Class 4A title.

Balanced scoring, solid defense, a team-first approach, and diligent preparation paved the way for Imhotep Charter’s sixth PIAA basketball championship.

The Panthers capped off another banner season by burying District 10’s Sharon, 71-35, in the Class 4A final at Hershey’s Giant Center.

Andre Noble’s squad went 31-2, won the Public League title, earned the District 12 crown, and finished with 22 consecutive victories.

Imhotep’s only two setbacks came against DeMatha Catholic (Md.) in the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and La Lumiere (Ind.) in the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, W. Va.

The Panthers equaled the previous year’s record with four underclassmen in the starting lineup; juniors Donta Scott, Dahmir Bishop, and Chereef Knox, and 6-foot-8 sophomore Elijah Taylor. Bernard Lightsey was the lone senior.

For its overall dominance, Imhotep is the Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania boys’ basketball team of the year.

The Panthers, who won five state playoff games by an average margin of 23.6 points, were ranked No. 5 in the country in USA Today’s most-recent Super 25.

Even scarier for Public League and other opponents is the anticipated return of three key reserves: guards Karam Cummings and Fatayn Wesley and 6-6 forward Jamil Riggins, all juniors.

Noble, in 14 seasons at 21st and Godfrey in East Germantown and the school’s athletic director, has compiled a 343-78 record (.815 winning percentage). He has won seven Public League championships in the last 10 years.

Coach of the year. In his second season at the helm, Matt Griffin guided Roman Catholic to a 24-6 record, the Catholic League title, and the 6A state crown.

In a second-round state quarterfinal against powerful Plymouth Whitemarsh, the Cahillites trailed the Colonials by 15 points four times in the first half. Under Griffin’s direction, the squad regrouped over the final 16 minutes and escaped, 75-73.

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK
Matt Griffin guided Roman Catholic to a 24-6 record and the PIAA Class 6A championship.

Before coming to Broad and Vine, where he is 44-12 (.786), Griffin was an assistant under Speedy Morris at St. Joseph’s Prep, where he played from 2003 to 2007, for two seasons. He played college ball at Rider and Boston University.

Game of the year. In a fast-paced thriller, Abraham Lincoln outlasted talented Hazleton, 76-74, in a 6A quarterfinal at Bethlehem Freedom. Khalif Meares’ runner with 10.7 seconds left in overtime stunned a crowd made up almost entirely of raucous Hazleton supporters.

Best individual performance. Chris Arcidiacono poured in 51 points, converting 19 of 21 free throws and hitting six three-pointers, to spark Neshaminy past Lower Merion, 88-87, in double overtime in a 6A second-round contest.

Camera icon SYDNEY SCHAEFER
Neshaminy’s Chris Arcidiacono attempts a jump shot over two Abraham Lincoln defenders.

The 6-4, 190-pound senior guard (26.7 ppg.) set the record for most points scored by a District 1 player in a state playoff. He eclipsed the 50 points scored by Morrisville’s Mike Vreeswyk, who went on to star at Temple, in a 2A overtime loss to St. Pius X in 1985.

Best play. Ajiri Johnson’s monster put-back dunk as time expired gave host Bonner-Prendergast a 63-61 victory over St. Joseph’s Prep in a Catholic League regular-season matchup.

Rookie of the year I. TaQuan Woodley, a 6-5 freshman forward, aided Neumann-Goretti’s run to a fifth consecutive Class 3A state title.

Camera icon ELIZABETH ROBERTSON
Neumann-Goretti’s TaQuan Woodley.

Woodley chipped in eight points, seven rebounds (three on offense), two blocks, and a steal, as the Saints easily downed Trinity, 57-42, in Hershey.

Rookie of the year II. Germantown Academy’s Jordan Longino, a 6-4 freshman guard, averaged 16.4 points per game and earned second-team all-Inter-Ac League honors.

Longino totaled 31 points in a 61-59 win over Episcopal Academy on Feb. 2 and did the same a week later in an 84-69 loss to Malvern Prep.

Sixth man of the year. Lincoln’s Sanhei Day, a 5-8 senior guard and usually the first player off the bench, averaged about 10 points and six assists per game.

“He was a real catalyst for us,” Railsplitters coach Al Brown said. “He was like an extension of the coach on the court.”