Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)
Since 1999, when Math, Civics, and Sciences opened its doors, Imhotep Charter had always played the role of big brother in basketball, beating on the Mighty Elephants (5-0) every year. That changed on Tuesday night when they pulled out a dramatic 53-50 win against the Panthers (4-1).
Senior Britton Lee and junior Malik Starkes led the way for the Mighty Elephants in a game that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer.
Lee shouldered the load in the first quarter, scoring 10 of the Mighty Elephants’ 12 first quarter points. The Robert Morris-bound guard didn’t score again until late in the third quarter, but hit the final free throw that put his team up by three. Lee ended the game with 14 points, two steals and a rebound and, while tying Starkes for a team-high in points, it was his play on the other end that really impressed his coach.
“Britton came out defensively,” MCS coach Dan Jackson said. “His defense opened up some easy points for us and I must say he’s one of our best on-ball defenders. Defensively, he creates opportunities for other guys in the open floor to get us some easy buckets.”
Starkes didn’t score in the first half, but also scored 14 points, including a buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter, then scoring the next seven points to open up the fourth to expand a two-point lead into a nine-point advantage. The junior finished with 14 points, two rebounds and a steal.
“He was a little passive at the beginning of the game, trying to get the guys involved,” Jackson said. “But he knew that when the fourth quarter came, he had to turn his game up and become a scoring threat and that’s what he did. He took over the game and did it aggressively and smart.”
Seniors Jeremiah Worthem and Shafeek Taylor also played well for the Mighty Elephants. Worthem tied Lee and Starkes with a team-high 14 points while collecting five rebounds and a block, while Taylor contributed four points (all in the second quarter), seven rebounds and three steals.
Math, Civics and Sciences had to deal with the tall task of guarding one of the area’s best players in Brandon Austin. The future Providence Friar played an overall great game despite getting into early foul trouble, contributing 14 points, 16 rebounds and three steals. But his most important shot, a heavily contested buzzer-beater that would have sent the game into overtime, bounced off the backboard and rim before falling harmlessly to the court, ending the Panthers’ hopes of a comeback.
“We really don’t have any guys as tall as him, but what we said in practice was ‘we’re going to try and be physical with him, try to deny him as much as possible’,” Jackson said. “Tonight, that worked to our advantage because he got into early foul trouble. Our guys were physical and he doesn’t like to be physical. He’s savvy, he’s smooth, he can create his own jumpshot. But we leaned on him, got physical with him, got some hard fouls as he went to the hole. We got some wear and tear on him and it helped us out a little bit.”
The Panthers also got a boost from senior guard Abraham Massaley, who contributed 14 points, five rebounds and two steals, and sophomore guard Devin Liggeons, who put up six points and grabbed three rebounds. Austin, Massaley and Liggeons were the only Panthers to score a point in the second half, as the last bucket that didn’t come from those three players came from senior guard Deryl Bagwell at the end of the first half.
The Mighty Elephants will have a quick turnaround, as they play a 5:00 p.m. game against the Constitution Generals on Thursday, December 20th. The Panthers will also play on Thursday, participating in the Mission Prep Christmas Classic against the ThunderRidge Grizzlies from Highlands Ranch, Co.