By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are state championships, and districts championships to be had, but what lies deep within every team in the Philadelphia Public League and Catholic Leagues are the league titles. Winning a state crown carries a special meaning, but getting there begins with the teams you’ve played against all year.

It’s why Imhotep Charter reacted as if it just won the Super Bowl, and Roberts Vaux High reacted as if someone close had just died—after a scintillating, down-to-the-final-second Imhotep 67-66 Public League championship victory at Temple’s Liacouras Center Sunday afternoon.

The Public League championship was Imhotep’s fourth in the last five years, thanks to a layup by Abe Massaley with :11 to play. The basket wiped away an amazing performance by Vaux star Rysheed Jordan, who scored a game-high 45 points on 10 of 21 shooting from the floor, and 21-23 from the line.

Imhotep countered with 6-foot-7, Providence-bound senior guard Brandon Austin, who was chosen as the game’s MVP after finishing with 23 for the Panthers.

“We responded when we had to, and I’m really proud of our kids,” Imhotep coach Andre Noble said. “Rysheed is incredible, there’s just no other way to describe him, and we knew what we had to do to stop him. We ran at him and tried to deny him the ball.”

Still, Jordan made what appeared to be an easy Imhotep victory into a classic. The Panthers led by 54-43 entering the fourth quarter—then Jordan went off. He scored 7 of the Cougars’ first 10 points to get within 55-53, and finished with 16 in the final quarter.

Then Austin fouled out with :49 left, setting the stage for Massaley to be the hero.

“The last play was a high-action screen roll for me to take, but I didn’t wait for the screen, because I felt I could take my man,” Massaley said. “I saw a light on the left side and I took it.”

Massaley then played a major role again, tapping the ball away in the closing seconds as Vaux and Jordan tried to drive the lane. There was a mad scramble for the loose ball in the closing seconds, before the ball finally was knocked out of bounds with :01.1 left on the clock.

Everyone in the gym knew who it was going to—and Jordan did get the ball in his hands. But his shot at the buzzer fell inches short of the rim—giving Imhotep another Pub title, and erasing an ugly 73-51 loss to Vaux just weeks ago.

“That game helped us a lot,” Massaley said. “We felt they disrespected us the last time, and we were out for them. This game was big for us to get them back, especially in the championship.”

On the biggest stage.


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