An all-Northwest Philly Public League hoops title game was not meant to be [Updated]

Update: Imhotep defeated Vaux 67-66 in a thrilling Public League championship game on Sunday afternoon. Story, video and pictures coming Monday.

With basketball teams from both East Germantown’s Imhotep Charter and West Oak Lane’s MLK High playing in the Philadelphia Public League semifinals Thursday night, Sunday’s title game could have featured schools located less than a mile away from one another.

In the early game, the Panthers from Imhotep Institute Charter High School did their part, besting a Communications Tech team which defeated them in last year’s playoffs, in a convincing 66-40 rout.

However, the Cougars from MLK suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss in a game that saw them claw back from several deficits. In the end, they could not shoot a three pointer before the buzzer that would have tied the score and sent the game to double overtime.

Imhotep game summary

Imhotep had a 9-7 lead after a first quarter in which Comm Tech got five points via free throws, and went into halftime up 23-12 thanks to two three-point shots from Derul Bagwell.

The Panthers were led by Brandon Austin, a rangy guard bound for Providence College next year. Among the 18 points he scored was a third-quarter free throw which took his career total to 1,000 points. He fueled a second-half onslaught in which the Panthers outscored the Phoenix 43-28.

Comm Tech’s David Johnson matched Austin’s 18 points in a defeat punctuated by a Deion Lewis dunk.

For his part, Imhotep head coach Andre Noble did not expect to win by such a large margin.

“No,” he answered simply, before going on to say “as long as we play good defense, we’re hard to beat, and we played good defense today.”

Sticking around for the second game between King and North Philadelphia’s Vaux High, he said didn’t really have a preference of Sunday’s opponent.

While the Imhotep players and fans who stayed at South Philadelphia High for the second semifinal were clearly in King’s corner, Noble did point out that Vaux defeated them earlier in this 22-4 season.

“But we’re just happy to be playing. Just happy to be here,” Noble said of a chance to win a fourth PL title in the past five years.

MLK game summary

If the first semifinal was a rout, the second was an exciting, back-and-forth battle which wouldn’t end until an overtime that saw most everyone in the packed gym rise to their feet for the final minute.

The star of this game would be Vaux’s senior guard Rysheed Jordan, the 28-point scorer who is deciding between Temple University, UCLA or St. John’s, from which the head coach sat near the media table.

With the 71-68 overtime win, Vaux qualified for its first-ever league title game, according to the Inquirer.

Despite a three-point lead after the first quarter, and a tie going into halftime, the Cougars battled back from deficits on several occasions throughout the game, most notably a 7-0 Vaux run after the break.

King had a 50-47 lead with 3:57 remaining but a Jordan three pointer gave Vaux the lead about a minute of game-time later.

Lead changes continued into overtime. Knotted at 64 with 1:39 left, King turned the ball over. A basket and Karon Snead free throw gave Vaux a 67-64 lead and the closest King would come the rest of the way was a one-point deficit.

After the game, Jordan told the Inquirer that Sunday’s game against Imhotep, 3 p.m. at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, is “going to be a big event. We’re doing it for everybody that ever went [to Vaux].”

With 23 points, Raquan Brown-Johnson was King’s leading scorer.

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