It’s always nice to have a great player around the basket. Imhotep Charter School received some terrific play from 6-foot-2 sophomore Bionca Dunham in leading the Panthers to a 41-38 victory over Northeast High to capture the girl’s Public League basketball championship on Sunday at the Temple University’s Liacouras Center.
Dunham scored 10 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while earning Most Valuable Player honors.
“It feels great to win MVP, but I wanted to win the Public League championship,” said Dunham. “I wanted to win this game for Ashley Murray. This is her last year. I wanted her to get it (championship) before she went to college.”
Dunham and the 6-foot-1 senior Murray really controlled the backboards for Imhotep Charter. Both players also picked up some key hoops in the lane. Murray had eight points and a game-high 21 points. Sabrina Allen, Imhotep Charter head coach, was pleased with the effort of her frontcourt players.
“She is my MVP,” Allen said. “I’m so happy she got that today. She’s only a sophomore. She has developed and developed. Her father is one of the best basketball players to play in the city. We call him [Jason] Dunham. He played [basketball] for [Ben] Franklin. They call him ‘Smooth.’ She’s an image of her father. When she came to me that was a gift.
“I’m going to miss Ashley Murray a lot,” Allen said. “I’m so happy that she got a full scholarship at Iona University. She’ll be there. She was one of the players that started off with me. I’m so happy that this has happened for us today.”
The Panthers (22-2) have been one of the league’s best teams all year. Although Imhotep Charter has a strong inside game, they have some great players on the perimeter, too. The Panthers have 5-foot-8 junior Deja Reynolds (seven points, four assists), 5-foot-5 junior Mayah Kitchen (eight points, four rebounds) and 5-foot-5 junior Taylor Scruggs (eight points). Reynolds has already given a verbal commitment to Temple.
“We have a good team,” Dunham said. “We just have to keep working. We’re not done yet.”
Imhotep Charter will play Neumann-Goretti for the Class AA championship on Saturday, March 1 at 2 p.m. The game will be played at St. Joseph’s Prep.
In other District 12 PIAA playoff action, Archbishop Carroll will play Northeast on Feb. 26 at Archbishop Ryan. The tipoff is at 6 p.m. Archbishop Wood will battle Mastery North Charter for the Class AAA championship at 3:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Prep. Bonner-Prendergast will face Freire Charter at Southern on Feb. 27. The game will begin at 6 p.m.
When you play in a championship game, it’s important to have somebody step up and make some big shots. Jabri McCall did exactly that in helping Martin Luther King defeat Constitution, 46-44 to win its first Public League basketball title Sunday at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.
McCall, a 6-foot sophomore guard, scored a team-high 13 points for the Cougars. He was also named the game’s Most Valuable Player. McCall made some big three-point shots. He even had a four play where he got fouled after sinking a three-pointer and went to the foul line to knock down a free throw. Sean Colson, MLK’s head coach, was really impressed with his play in a huge game.
“He plays hard, and the biggest thing about him is he’s mentally tough on the court,” Colson said. “If he makes a mistake, he moves on to the next play. We’re real close. He listens very well. He’s tough-minded and can make that play.”
McCall did a good job of handling the ball under pressure. The Generals kept the defensive intensity up the entire game. He was able to penetrate and run the Cougars offense efficiently. In addition, he grabbed six rebounds. It was the big shots and all the little things that brought MLK the championship and the recognition.
“It feels great,” McCall said. “I just did everything my team needed for me to win. It feels great to be on top of the city. I was in the moment. I was just feeling it. I just got to where I need to be.”
McCall does have a good supporting cast. MLK has a combination of height, quickness and experience. The Cougars’ other bright spots were 6-foot-1 junior guard Sammy Foreman (12 points), 6-foot-8 senior Jahmir Taylor (six points and 14 rebounds) and 6-foot-3 senior Gregory Bennett (eight points and eight rebounds). He also gave a lot of credit to Colson for his development.
“It’s a team effort,” McCall said. “We did it all together. This was a great team win. Coach Colson has taught me a lot. He’s showed all the things I need to do as a point guard. I’ve improved a lot. It just feels good to put one of these banners up. I thought we had a chance to do it. We worked hard this whole season. Now, all this work has paid off.”
Foreman believes McCall is a rising star among top underclassmen on the Philadelphia high school basketball scene.
“I feel like he’s the best sophomore in the city,” Foreman said. “His heart is going to take his game a long way. I think this is his breakout season.”
Kimar Williams was the leading scorer for Constitution with 12 points. Williams was 8-for-8 from the free throw line. The Generals will face West Catholic for the Class AA championship on Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. In the second game, Neumann-Goretti will play Philadelphia Electrical at 7 p.m. MLK will play Roman Catholic for the Class AAA championship at 8:30 p.m. All games will be played at Saint Joseph’s University Hagan Arena.
NOTES: On Feb. 26, Archbishop Carroll will play Imhotep Charter at Archbishop Ryan. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. This contest is for Class AAA third/fourth seeding in the PIAA District 12 tournament. La Salle will face Central at Southern on Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m. This contest is for third place in Class AAAA.
The Philadelphia 76ers made big news during the NBA trading deadline. The Sixers traded Evan Tuner and Lavoy Allen to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger and the rights to Golden State’s second-round selection in 2015.
In addition, the Sixers picked up two 2014 second-round draft picks from the Cleveland Cavaliers along with Earl Clark and Henry Sims for Spencer Hawes. The Sixers have since waived Clark. They grabbed the Denver Nuggets’ 2016 second-round pick, the New Orleans Pelicans’ 2015 second round choice and Eric Maynor. The Sixers acquired a 2018 second-round draft choice from the Los Angeles Clippers along with Byron Mullens in exchange for a protected second-round draft pick in 2014.
Although they made a lot of moves, the big story is the rebuilding process of this team has really taken place in a big way. Sam Hinkie, Sixers president of basketball operations and general manager, has plenty of work in front of him.
“All three [players] were playing at a career best level,” Hinkie said. “Sometimes it’s about the timing of the league. Some of those guys belong in a place like Evan is Indiana. Indiana is going to be playing in at least May if not June and this is a time for that and for him to be there. We took back a second in this year’s draft. We’re trying to acquire things that will help us move forward.”
The Sixers have as many as seven additional draft picks moving forward. They have six second round picks, but they have two first-round selections. They have their own pick, which could possibly be as high as three with the NBA draft lottery. Then, the Sixers have the No. 11 pick from the New Orleans Pelicans that was a part of the Jrue Holiday draft night deal.
The Sixers are in a position where they should be able to land one of the top college prospects in the draft. They have a 15-40 record. The only team in the league with a worst record is the Milwaukee Bucks with a 10-44 mark.
“I think we’ll have a whole set of interesting opportunities in June if not before as many as two first [-round picks] and five second [-round picks] and more in the future,” Hinkie said. “It will make our phone ring for one. It will give us choices.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how all of these deals play out. Keep in mind, Turner was the No. 2 player taken in the 2010 draft. He’s no longer here. The Sixers should also have some cap space to go after some veteran players.
“I think all the best teams are built around great players,” Hinkie said. “We’re going to be focused on that — finding great players that can lead us forward.”
When Neumann-Goretti and Roman Catholic face each other Monday night, Feb. 24 at The Palestra for the Catholic League championship, this game could be decided by the play of the team’s backcourts. N-G and Roman Catholic have some outstanding guards.
The Saints have three magnificent guards in 6-foot-3 senior Ja’Quan Newton, 6-foot-1 senior Troy Harper and 6-foot junior Lamarr Kimble. In N-G’s 67-62 victory over Archbishop Carroll in the league semfinals, Kimble had a team-high 17 points. Newton was spectacular with 15 points. Harper certainly had his moments, scoring nine points. The Saints are capable of playing as many as four or five guards at one time. Kimble feels that’s a real advantage for them.
“We have a lot of guards that can create for themselves,” he said. “This way the big man has to defend one of our guards. We can stretch them out and all of our guards can play. We play four guards and some times five. We’re very scrappy. We have a lot of heart. We have a lot of trust out there.”
On the other side of the ledger, Roman Catholic has a terrific backcourt with 6-foot-1 senior Shep Garner, 6-foot-2 senior Rashaan London and 6-foot-1 sophomore Tony Carr. They all made contributions in Roman Catholic’s 52-45 win over La Salle in the league semifinals. Carr was the leading scorer with 12 points. Garner and London tallied nine and eight points respectively.
“Rashaan and I have been together for so long, since the seventh grade,” Garner said. “We’ve been on the same team all the way. We have good chemistry together. Tony Carr can play as well.”
N-G (20-4 overall, 12-1 league) will be playing in its sixth consecutive league championship game. The Saints have won the previous five league titles (2009-2013). It’s been a little bit of a struggle this year. In fact, N-G dropped a 71-64 decision to Roman Catholic a month ago.
“It was tougher getting to the finals this time,” Kimble said. “We had some downfalls. We had some lapses, and after the setback to Roman we kind of put our heads into it. We had to battle at the defensive end.”
Neumann-Goretti has a lot of championship experience. They’ll be tough in the finals. Roman Catholic (21-3 overall, 13-0 league) has certainly earned its spot in the championship game. Garner is really excited about having the opportunity to play for the league crown.
“It feels good to be able to get to the finals,” he said. “I thought we would be here coming into the season. So it’s not a surprise, but I’m definitely glad we accomplished one of our goals. We’ve meshed and hit our peak at the right time.”
The boys’ championship game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. The girls’ championship game will be played at 6:30 p.m. between Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Wood.
It’s been an impressive year in terms of overall basketball talent in the Catholic League. You can definitely see that in the selections of the Coaches’ All-Catholic League teams. Ja’Quan Newton, Neumann-Goretti’s outstanding guard, was named Most Valuable Player. Newton averages 21.8 points a game. He will play his college basketball for the University of Miami next season. The 6-foot-3 senior has been sensational throughout his career. He has been a big part of the Saints’ tremendous basketball program.
Chris McNesby was chosen as the Coach of the Year. McNesby is the head basketball coach at Roman Catholic. The Cahillites are one of the top basketball teams in the city. Roman Catholic has a 19-3 overall record. McNesby has one of the league’s best backcourts in Shep Garner and Rashann London. Garner and London will play Division I basketball for Penn State and Drexel respectively next season.
The coaches selected first, second and third team of all-stars. A good number of these players have been standouts in the postseason.
Ja’Quan Newton, Neumann-Goretti, 6-foot-3, guard, senior; Chris Clover, St. Joseph’s Prep, 6-foot-3, guard/forward, junior; Shep Garner, Roman Catholic, 6-foot-1, guard, senior; Rashann London, Roman Catholic, 6-foot-2, senior; Derrick Jones, Archbishop Carroll, 6-foot-6, forward, junior; Pat Smith, Archbishop Wood, 6-foot-4, guard/forward, senior; Tyrell Long, Bishop McDevitt, 6-foot-5, forward, senior; Lamarr Kimble, Neumann-Goretti, 6-foot, guard, junior; Ernest Aflakpui, Archbishop Carroll, 6-foot-9, center, junior; Troy Harper, Neumann-Goretti, 6-foot-1, guard, senior.
Austin Tilghman, Archbishop Carroll, 6-foot-1, guard, senior; Dave Krmpotich, La Salle, 6-foot-7, forward, junior; Manny Taylor, Roman Catholic, 6-foot-6, forward/center, junior; Najee Walls, La Salle, 5-foot-11, guard, junior; Luke Connaghan, Archbishop Wood, 6-foot-4, forward, junior; Stevie Jordan, Conwell-Egan, 5-foot-9, guard, sophomore; LaPri McCray-Pace, Conwell-Egan, 6-foot-1, guard, sophomore; Brian Rafferty, Lansdale Catholic, 6-foot-4, guard, senior; Brendan Horan, Archbishop Ryan, 6-foot-2, forward, senior; Andrew Riviello, Lansdale Catholic, 5-foot-10, guard, senior.
Tony Carr, Roman Catholic, 6-foot-1, guard, sophomore; Tony Toplyn, Neumann-Goretti, Kyle Thompson, St. Joseph’s Prep, 6-foot-2, guard, senior; Shawn Witherspoon, La Salle, 6-foot-1, guard, junior; Jahmil Harris, West Catholic, 6-foot-4, forward, junior.