The 2016 Beach Ball Classic champions didn’t leave the 2017 tournament quietly, as Dahmir Bishop hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Imhotep Charter School of Philadelphia a 47-44 win over Moeller (Ohio) on Saturday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
The win earned the Panthers fifth place in this year’s Beach Ball with a 3-1 record, giving them a 7-1 record over the past two tournaments.
Imhotep’s two primary starting guards from last year, David Beatty and Daron Russell, are playing at South Carolina and Rhode Island, respectively, and 6-6 wing Koby Thomas is at Robert Morris.
“Last year when we won the championship we were very excited,” Bishop said. “This year we came back with the same hopes. We lost two very good players but we still thought we could do it we just came up a little short. But it still takes a good team to go home 3-1 in this tournament.”
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After hitting the contested jumper in front of the Imhotep bench on the left wing, Bishop was pig-piled by his teammates. Bishop said he believes it’s the first game-winner he has hit for Imhotep.
“The play was called for Donta Scott to come off a screen and make a decision because he’s our point guard, and he made the right decision, obviously,” Bishop said.
Imhotep showed the feistiness and toughness one would expect from a Philadelphia school this week.
Saturday’s game was hotly-contested and contentious, featuring several technical fouls and a scuffle after a scramble for a loose ball.
“It was a chippy game, both teams were physical,” Imhotep coach Andre Noble said. “Somehow we seem to find [those type games]. There were different styles but both teams were physical.”
Imhotep (9-1) entered the tournament ranked 17th in the country in USA Today’s Super 25 and saw its 37-game win streak come to an end with a 56-43 loss in the second round to DeMatha Catholic (Md.), which is ranked 16th. The Panthers defeated Bishop Gorman (Nev.) in the opening round and followed with wins over Socastee and Moeller.
Imhotep’s win streak included a Pennsylvania state championship, and tournament title at Montverde Academy (Fla.) with a win over the tournament hosts in the championship game. Montverde is the current No. 1 team in the country.
“I knew there were going to be a lot of teams that were going to be looking for us in this tournament because of the type of season we had last year,” Bishop said. “We upset a lot of teams last year, so I knew we were going to have a big target on our back.”
The Panthers enjoyed the notoriety of being the defending Beach Ball champions this past week.
“It was great. I think we learned something from every game and I think we got better this week, learning how we need to play to win games,” Noble said. “You’d love to be 4-0. Trust me, it was great last year. But to go 3-1 in the Beach Ball, this was a great field, everything is first class here, so it’s great.”
Officiating gender equity
Leigh-Ann Pursifull wanted to make this year’s trip to Myrtle Beach a bit different from the ones she’s had over the past decade.
A common presence as a referee during the annual CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational, she opted to stay an extra week to provide her services for the 2017 Beach Ball Classic.
“It’s truly an honor to be here,” she said. “I’ve been coming down for the girls holiday tournament since 2007, so it’s exciting to be able to contribute to the Beach Ball Classic as well.”
Close to a dozen referees worked the tournament this year. Pursifull, a resident of Anderson, was the only female member of the crew.
Though standing out simply by being herself, Pursifull said her primary emphasis is to ensure players remain safe and the flow of play is not hindered.
When asked the difference between regular season games in the Upstate and those at the Beach Ball Classic, she claimed it simply was a matter of talent.
“You see a game in the Upstate during the regular season, and you may see one or two guys with a great deal of talent,” she said. “Here, all these teams have a lot of skill, and the pace of play is so much faster.
“It’s great to see some of the top prospects from around the country and get to see teams from outside South Carolina. It’s fun to do that because everyone tends to bring their own style to the table.”
Scott County hits mark on final day
Bishop Gorman (Nev.) coaches couldn’t find much it did wrong on Saturday in a loss to Scott County (Ky.). All the Gaels’ staff could do was tip their cap.
“Good game guys, great game,” said Bishop Gorman assistant coach Mike Wright to Scott County players as they departed their Myrtle Beach Convention Center locker room. “Best of luck the rest of the way. Get the job done.”
The Cardinals shot 68.2 percent in the second half against Bishop Gorman in the Beach Ball Classic consolation bracket championship, allowing them to claim a 71-62 victory.
The Cardinals trailed 32-28 following a first half in which they shot 44 percent, then hit 15 of its 22 shot attempts, including three of five three-point attempts, in the second half.
Cooper Robb led Scott County with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. Bryce Long followed with 17 points after hitting seven of his eight attempts. Robb said he believes it is the first time the team has collectively shot that well in a game this season.
“We all came out hot. That’s probably the best we’ve shot all year,” he said. “We had a scrimmage earlier this season they played and I don’t think they hit like that. I mean, other than that, it was phenomenal.”
Scott County is the top-ranked team in Kentucky, according to MaxPreps. Taking on a perennial powerhouse in Bishop Gorman, the Cardinals were primarily seeking to better themselves as a team ahead of a grueling conference stretch.
After Saturday’s big win, Scott County is leaving with something else – confidence.
“We’ve been here three times before and we have never finished 3-1 before,” said senior standout Michael Moreno. “I feel like our work finally paid off. We beat three really good teams and we need to carry that momentum with us back to Kentucky.”
The most heralded player in the tournament lived up to the hype and took home the tournament’s most valued piece of hardware. Montverde Academy (Nev.) 6-6 senior and Duke commitment R.J. Barrett was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after nearly recording a triple-double in the championship game with 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. He scored at least 20 in each of his team’s four games and finished with 96 points.
Cox Mill (N.C.) 6-6 junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. led all scorers in the tournament with 97 points in four games on 33 of 67 shooting and was named the Most Outstanding Player.
Other members of the All-Tournament team were Jamal Bey of Bishop Gorman (Nev.); Reshon “Leaky” Black of Cox Mill; Justin Moore and Earl Timberlake Jr. of DeMatha Catholic (Md.); Chereef Knox of Imhotep (Pa.); Jeremiah Davenport of Moeller (Ohio); Andrew Nembhard and Filip Petrusev of Montverde; Michael Moreno of Scott County (Ky.); Chantry Ross of Lone Peak (Utah); Matthew Brown of Spartanburg Day; and Donatas Kupsas and Defensive Award recipient Tyson Etienne of Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.).
Lone Peak won the Team Hustle Award and Spartanburg Day won the Sportsmanship Award.