With about eight seconds left in overtime, an Imhotep supporter seated beneath the Panthers’ basket inside packed Lincoln High tried to put the occasion in perspective.
“OK, relax,” a voice said calmly. “It’s just a game.”
The sentiment was reasoned, wise, intelligent and meant to calm the Panthers. But for Bonner-Prendergast this was anything but just a game.
The Friars fended off the Panthers’ last-chance heave in overtime to claim the Class 4A District 12 championship, 59-57, in a sometimes disjointed but always thrilling contest.
“It was more than just a game,” the Friars’ Isaiah Wong said. “We’ve really been off this whole season and I feel like this is like a comeback for us.”
The Friars were still smarting from their loss to Neumann-Goretti in the second round of the Catholic League playoffs. The Panthers were fresh off a third straight Public League championship.
Wong, the senior Miami recruit, led the Friars with 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting overall. He also added 10 rebounds and five assists.
This game, however, was more than just a one-man show.
Tariq Ingraham added 11 points, including 5-for-7 from the foul line.
Junior guard Tyreese Watson added eight points, but perhaps his most important contributions, before he fouled out in regulation, came on the defensive end.
“He’s been doing that for us all season,” said first-year coach Kevin Funston. “I think some of what he does doesn’t always show in the box score."
Early on, the box score favored the Friars (18-5), who led, 15-5, early before the Panthers walked them down.
Donta Scott led Imhotep (21-6) with 19 points. The senior Maryland recruit, shot 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line and blocked two shots.
Fellow senior Chereef Knox added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Panthers tied the score at 26 by intermission and took a nine-point lead in the third quarter. The Panthers led by 45-37 heading into the fourth.
The Friars, with help off the bench from sophomore Malik Edwards (eight points), returned the Panthers’ volley, much to the delight of the crowd.
“That was fun,” Ingraham said. “My heart was dropping in the middle of the game. That was too much fun. Way too fun.”
His offensive rebound and subsequent free throw was the and-one that gave the Friars a 53-52 edge with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left.
Jamil Riggins eventually gave the Panthers back the lead with two freebies at the 1:08 mark. After the Friars missed, they eventually pressed the Panthers into a turnover, though it appeared the ball may have been kicked by a defender before Wong tracked it down and was fouled.
Wong made the first but missed the second and the Panthers’ last gasp in regulation went begging. A nice Edwards pass to Ingraham gave the Friars a two-point edge.
Both sides missed opportunities at the foul line late. The Friars finished 13-for-27 and the Panthers were 15-for-21.
In the end, however, defense saved the Friars as Wong stuck close to Fatayn Wesley, whose three-pointer clanged off the back rim before the final buzzer blared.
“We needed that,” Ingraham said. “We lost in the Catholic League playoffs to Neumann-Goretti, so we needed that to get back and focused.”
Bonner-Prendie 17 9 11 17 5 59
Imhotep 12 14 19 9 3 57
BP: Isaiah Wong 17, Tariq Ingraham 11, Michael Perretta 8, Donovan Rodriguez 7, Tyreese Watson 8, Malik Edwards 8.