Imhotep crushes King in Public League title game

With Amear Johnson holding the trophy, the Imhotep Panthers celebrate their winning the Public League Boys' Basketball Championship against Martin Luther King, 66-37, at the Palestra February 25, 2018.

All season long, Imhotep coach Andre Noble has told everyone who would listen that defense — and good players — are what has made his program so successful.

On Sunday afternoon at the Palestra, as they have done most of this season, the Panthers listened.

Imhotep, ranked No. 13 in the nation by USA Today, mauled Martin Luther King, 66-37, to win the school’s seventh boys’ Public League basketball championship, and it’s second in a row.

“I thought it was going to be about defense,” said Noble, who is now No. 2 in Pub titles since 1917, according to TedSilary.com. Warren Weiler owns eight (four apiece at West Philly and Overbrook).

“I’ve been saying that all week,” Noble continued. “I told our guys that in the first two [regular-season] games, we gave up 40 points to [King].”

Later, he added: “I told them if we keep them under 40, I didn’t see how we would lose the game.”

Last year’s finale was a thriller that Imhotep needed overtime to win. Sunday, the second quarter was about all the time they needed to pull away in front of a crowd that filled most of the lower section to witness the first Public League championship games at the Palestra since 1998.

King actually led, 13-9, after the first quarter, but the Panthers’ defense flexed in the second, allowing just five points while only allowing seven more in the third.

The Panthers led, 30-18, by intermission.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Imhotep Coach Andre Noble looks over the Public League championship trophy after his Panthers defeated Martin Luther King, 66-37, at the Palestra February 25, 2018. Game MVP Bernard Lightsey is to his right, holding silver plate.

Meanwhile, the Panthers shared the ball with aplomb on offense, seemed to score at will, creating a perfect storm that King couldn’t weather.

The Cougars had 17 turnovers through three quarters and finished with 21.

Senior guard Bernard Lightsey walked away with the game’s MVP with 12 points on 2-of-4 shooting and 7-of-8 at the foul line.

“This was extremely good because our [seniors] always get criticized for how bad we are or we don’t compete and how bad our class is, but our seniors stepped up today to show how good we can be and won a championship with our young fellas,” Lightsey said.

Junior forward Donta Scott was the only other Panther in double figures with 10 points. Fellow juniors Jamil Riggins and Chereef Knox added 9 and 8 points, respectively.

Full-court pressure in the second quarter disrupted King’s offense and took the ball from their most talented offensive player, Denelle Holly Jr.

The senior guard finished with 4 points (2 of 11), 4 rebounds and 4 assists, but didn’t tally his first basket until the third quarter to make the score, 41-23.

Senior Will McNair led King with 7 points and 6 rebounds. Junior guard Ricardo Monteiro also added 7 points.

“If we play defense like that all the time,”said junior Dahmir Bishop, “we’re a nationally ranked team , I don’t see us losing to anybody.”

Box

IM: Bernard Lightsey 12, Donta Scott 10, Jamil Riggins 9, Chereef Knox 8, Amear Johnson 7, Elijah Taylor 6, Dahmir Bishop 4, Fatayn Wesley 4, Marquise Greenwood 4, Devonte Canty 2.