It's called winning time, and when the game is close and the clock is low, Imhotep seems to thrive.

Tuesday at Southern, the Panthers clawed their way to a 54-46 Public League semifinal victory against a Mastery North squad that refused to go quietly.

It wasn't pretty, but the victory still means a date on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Palestra, where the Panthers will defend their Pub title against Martin Luther King.

In Game 2 of the doubleheader, King knocked off Constitution, 49-44. Will McNair dominated the interior for King with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocked shots. Denelle Holly added 15 points and controlled the pace for the Cougars.

"We're moving on to the next round," said Imhotep junior forward Chereef Knox. "It's as simple as that. Doesn't matter how ugly the win was or how badly we beat them. We're moving on to the 'ship."

Also simplistic — at first — was Imhotep coach Andre Noble's explanation for his team's winning ways late in games.

"We have good players," Noble said of his team's late-game prowess. "But I think we're usually making winning plays because on the other end we're defending."

The Panthers (18-2) needed all the tenacity they could muster against the Pumas, who jumped out to a 6-0 edge early in the first quarter and trailed by just three at halftime.

Imhotep led 40-39 with 4 minutes left in the final frame when junior forward Donta Scott drilled a corner three-pointer right in front of the Panthers' bench.

On the Pumas' ensuing possession, Dahmir Bishop darted in the passing lane, picked off a pass and then sprang forth for a one-handed dunk.

After a few more defensive stops, Imhotep built an eight-point edge with less than 3 minutes left.

The Pumas (17-6) got back within five, but the Panthers defense made points hard to come by.

"When we're defending at a high level, that's when it's hard to beat us," Noble said.

Bishop led the Panthers with 13 points. Knox and Jamil Riggins added 11 apiece. Riggins added eight rebounds.

Jamir Reed paced Mastery North with 19 and seven rebounds, while Tahj Campbell added 13 points and 13 rebounds.

The game lacked offensive flow on both ends. Imhotep finished 14 of 48 from the field, while Mastery North finished 15 of 51. Each team shot 5 of 19 from three. Imhotep dominated at the foul line: 21 of 35, to 9 of 15 for the Pumas.

The game's rhythm was also disjointed by arguments at the scorer's table about timeouts, fouls and the possession arrow.

Imhotep 54, Mastery North 46
Imhotep 10 15 15 14 — 54
Mastery North 13 9 15 9 — 46

IM: Dahmir Bishop 13, Chereef Knox 11, Jamil Riggins 11, Donta Scott 8, Bernard Lightsey 7, Fatayn Wesley 3, Elijah Taylor 1.

MN: Jamir Reed 19, Tahj Campbell 13, Alvin Williams Jr. 5, Rodney Phillips 4, Lakeem McAliley 2, Sampson Nyankun 1.

King 49, Constitution 44

King 17 10 11 11 — 49

Constitution 14 16 5 9 — 44

K: Will McNair 15, Denelle Holly 15, Ricardo Monteiro 7, Jerry Andrews 6, Dawud Jenkins 4, Hyseir Miller 2.

C: Damon Wall 13, Jahmir Marable-Williams 9, Keshaun Hammonds, LeeRon Wills-Worthy 2, Jabari Merritt 5, Tyree Mitchell 5, Abdul Riggins 3.