Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
In a battle between the last two PIAA Class A state champions, Math Civics & Sciences used a suffocating full-court defense to outlast Constitution, 90-75, in a foul-heavy game on MCS’ home court at Berean Academy.
Jeremiah Worthem had a monster game with 33 points, 12 rebounds and five steals for MCS (6-0), going on a big run by himself in the fourth quarter to help seal the win. He began the game with just one point in the first quarter and seven by halftime, but the Robert Morris signee got rolling in the second half. The 6-foot-6 power forward did most of his damage around the basket, picking up five offensive rebounds and getting to the rim against an overmatched Constitution frontcourt.
“He sparked us offensively,” Mighty Elephants coach Dan Jackson told CoBL afterwards. “So many guys can be an offensive weapon for us at any given time but tonight he held his own.”
With his team holding a five-point lead under four minutes remaining, Worthem scored 11 consecutive points to turn it into a 87-71 advantage with under two minutes to play, putting the game out of reach.
“I reminded him how last year they beat up on us…they beat us three times in a row by double-digit points, so I let him know that they were trying to beat us,” Jackson said. “One of the veterans on this team, one of the guys that’s experienced down the stretch, that’s led us in past years…he gets the call and he came out with fire.”
St. Peter’s commit Quadir Welton also had a strong all-around game for MCS with 17 points, 10 rebounds and at least five steals to go along with four assists.
“One thing I love about his game, he’s very unselfish and he’s a great passer out of the post,” Jackson said. “So if he gets it and he feels as though they’re doubling down, or he doesn’t have the right matchup that he wants, he will look for the open man and he will pass well out of the post. That’s something we’ve been working on him with since his sophomore year.”
The Mighty Elephants opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter thanks to Welton, who had had five points as part of a 17-4 stretch that helped MCS to a 24-12 lead after the opening eight minutes.
MCS held a 47-31 lead with two minutes to play before the half, but a flurry of steals by Constitution (3-2) would close things up considerably. The Generals scored the final eight points of the second quarter to turn that 16-point chasm into a much more manageable eight-point halftime deficit.
However, the home squad was able to keep Constitution at bay throughout all of the third quarter, never letting them closer than nine until it turned to the fourth. When Constitution finally got it to 74-69, the closest it had been since it was 12-7, Worthem went on his run.
“They were getting to the offensive glass consistently and that really hurt us,” Constitution coach Rob Moore told CoBL. “And in the first half we came out and I think until we realized we could play with them, they played a little nervous to start out the game so we let them basically start with a head start, and then we had to play from behind and every time we got close…the few times, we just couldn’t get over.”
The problem all evening for Constitution was fouls: they had 14 in each half and Gilbert, Haneef Vaughn and Raheem Liggins had all fouled out by midway through the fourth quarter. MCS was whistled for 19 fouls, but nobody besides Britton Lee (four) came close to fouling out.
Constitution forward Ahmad Gilbert had eight points and six rebounds in what Moore called the sophomore’s “worst game” of the season. Still, the ultra-athletic, 6-foot-6 sophomore had flashes of why he’s considered one of the city’s top young prospects, displaying an improved handle and good hands on the defensive end that helped him to at least four steals and a few assists.
“Consistently in the season he’s been giving me a few blocks every game because he’s so long in there, and steals,” Constitution coach Rob Moore said. “We play in him the middle of the press sometimes and when we trap, he’s able to cut off the passing lane really, really well. Last year he was a little bit slower and couldn’t get there.”
The other intriguing prospect on the Generals was 5-10 point guard Kamir Williams, who had 18 points and a handful of assists, using high-end speed to get up and down the court and blow by some Mighty Elephants defenders. Tymir Watson had 21 points to lead his team as the only other Constitution player in double figures.
“I think (Williams’) gonna be 6-1, 6-2, he’s gotta fill out a little bit,” said Moore, who added that Williams had grown nine inches in the last year. “He was able to get by those guys, good defenders, like Britton Lee and Shafeek (Taylor), guys that came from Roman and played defense, he was able to get by them with his quickness and his ball handling but when he got bumped off it was a little bit difficult for him.”