A pair of prestigious programs from two of the country’s hotbeds of high school hoops match-up in the first quarter-final of the tournament. Stepanic out of New York City takes on Imhotep of Philadelphia. Both teams get after opponents at both ends of the court so this should be fun.
Stepanic got out of the gate quickly as 6’7 junior Braylan Ritvo scored on a floater and knocked down a three to give the Crusaders an early 5-0 lead. Imhotep responded in kind as 6’2 junior Ahmad Nowell hit a three and 6’0 senior Rahmir Barno had a steal and score. At that point, Stepanic took control, reeling off twelve straight points, five from 6’3 junior Boogie Fland, to go up 17-5. Nowell of Imhotep finally got Imhotep back on the board with a three with five seconds left but the damage had been done. Stepanic was cruising after one, 17-8.
Just as Stepanic got hot in the first quarter, Imhotep got going to open the second period. Jeremiah White, a 6’6 junior, put back a miss, Nowell drained a mid-range jumper and 6’7 senior Justin Edwards connected on a pair of free throws. It now seemed to be a new ball game with six minutes left in the quarter and the score 17-14. However, Imhotep’s reversal of fortunes was swift. Stepanic was in the bonus and seven of their nine-point run came from the free throw line, leading to a 26-14 advantage with just over three minutes to go in the second. Edwards got Imhotep back on the board with a pair of free throws but was answered by a mid-range jumper from Stepanic’s 6’5 senior Benjamin Lyttle. A three from Imhotep’s 6’2 senior Yahmir Satterfield had the margin down to nine but a late putback by 6’6 freshman Dylan Perry gave Stepanic a 30-19 lead at the break.
Things looked grim for Imhotep after Stepanic scored four straight points in less than a minute to build a fifteen-point lead, 34-19, less than a minute into third quarter. Imhotep was finally able to get on the board with a pair of free throws from Satterfield and a three-point play from Nowell. Stepanic hit a three with four minutes to go, but Barno of Imhotep scored four straight points to make the score 37-28 with just over two minutes left. Perry of Stepanic hit one of two free throws to make it a ten-point game but that was offset by a free throw from Imhotep. With one quarter left to play, Stepanic was still in command, up 38-29.
Imhotep mounted a charge at the start of the fourth as Edwards hit a mid-range jumper and putback a miss to cut the margin to five. Stepanic responded with a pair of threes, one from Fland and one from Carbuccia to go up 44-35 with 5:12 left to play. Edwards responded with a three for Imhotep and then Nowell put back a miss to make the score 44-37 with just under five minutes to play. Also at this time, the Imhotep defense stiffened, forcing Stepanic either one and out or a turnover. Nowell got Imhotep within four at 44-40 with two minutes to go. Stepanic continued to struggle and Barno struck twice in transition, tying the game at 44-44 with forty-three seconds remaining. Stepanic had multiple opportunities to take the lead but were unable to capitalize. Stepanic had the ball out of bounds under their own basket with six seconds left, but turned the ball over on an errant pass. Now Imhotep had a chance to win. Barno get the ball deep in the backcourt and got all the way to the basket for a score with one second left on the clock. Stepanic was left with no timeouts and no time to inbound the ball for a shot. Imhotep accomplished a spectacular comeback to reach the semis and a spot on ESPN by the score of 46-44.
Nowell led Imhotep with 16 points. Barno finished with 12 points and Edwards added 10 points.
For Stepanic, Fland led the way with 12 points while Carbuccia and Ritvo finished with 8 points each.