Imhotep Charter takes AA title in 2OT thriller

March 21, 2009 7:52:54 PM PDT
All year long, Imhotep Charter coach Andre Noble has been telling his players to stay poised in big games. Looks like his Panthers were listening.

Sam Prescott scored 21 points, including a layup that tied the game in regulation and four foul shots in the second overtime, as the Panthers rallied from 12 down to defeat Pittsburgh North Catholic 75-67 to take the PIAA Class AA title on Saturday.

"It was a hell of a game. A tremendous game," Noble said. "I wouldn't change the way we had to win it. It's more memorable than winning by 40."

For a while Saturday, the only thing the Panthers (32-1) looked as though they would win was the second-place trophy.

North Catholic's Jesse Long - one of four members of the Long family who start for the Trojans (28-3) - had 20 points and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Ivory Wells to tie the game at 63 to send the game into the second overtime.

Prescott's layup with 21 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 58 to help force the first overtime for the Panthers, the District 12 champs from the Philadelphia Public League.

Imhotep Charter had a miserable start to the game in missing its first nine shots to fall behind 12-0. David Appolon's layup finally got them on the scoreboard with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.

Noble said his team was thrown off at first by North Catholic's deliberate style. Imhotep missed jumpers and got careless on the court.

"We were sloppy with the basketball, uncharacteristically," Noble said. "But all year the word for this team has been poise, and they showed a lot of poise again today."

Henry Pwono added 16 points and eight rebounds for North Catholic, while Matt Long, Jesse's cousin, added 13 points and hit three treys.

The Trojans seemingly ran out of energy against the more athletic Panthers as the game stretched into the second OT. North Catholic brought just two players off the bench, while Imhotep Charter went five-deep and had seven players who went at least 19 minutes.

"That was a tall task, to play at that level of intensity and show up for the second overtime," said North Catholic coach Dave Long, who is uncle to Matt and Jesse. "Unfortunately, their bench was a little longer than ours. It paid dividends down the stretch."

The first overtime featured four turnovers in the period's frantic final 58 seconds before Jesse Long nailed his dramatic 3.

Tyler Staniski's 3-point attempt to win with 4 seconds left in regulation banged off the rim, allowing relieved Imhotep Charter to ready for the first overtime.

It was a long way from North Catholic's 12-point lead in the first quarter, in which the Trojans seemed to dominate every facet of the game.

"That was a first-rate team, and I'm just proud our boys went out and did lead one of the better teams in the state for most of the game," Dave Long said. "Unfortunately we weren't quite able to answer the last bell."

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