Public League championship preview

Posted: February 23, 2014

Who: Martin Luther King vs. Constitution

When: 3 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Temple's Liacouras Center

Records: King is 21-4 and on a seven-game winning streak. ConHigh is 22-4 and also a winner of seven straight.

Coaches: Sean Colson, second season at MLK, 45-9. Rob Moore, fourth season at ConHigh, 108-36.

Previous meetings: Constitution won the first meeting, 65-49, on Jan. 7 and ended King's undefeated streak at eight games. Ahmad "J.R." Gilbert (22, 20 in second half), Floyd Preito (12) and Raheem Liggins (11) led the Generals. King won the Jan. 23 rematch, 64-40, led by Greg Bennett (19), Sammy Foreman and Jahmir Taylor (11 apiece).

Background: King, located at 6100 Stenton Ave., will make its first appearance in a Public League title game. Colson (13 points, six assists) helped lead Franklin Learning Center to the 1992 title against Rasheed Wallace (27 points, 12 boards, nine blocks) and Simon Gratz, 63-50. Constitution, located on South 7th Street (near Market), makes its third championship appearance in four seasons (beat Boys' Latin, 85-60, in '12).

King personnel: Sammy Foreman is one of the city's best finishers around the basket and can also facilitate for teammates . . . Greg Bennett is a slasher with serious rise in transition . . . Jahmir Taylor is a rebounder and shot blocker . . . Chase Rodgers is a boards-and-blocks guy and an occasional shooter. Jabri McCall is another penetrator . . . Off the bench: Tyheem Harmon provides offensive punch, and Rasool Samir is a long-armed shot blocker.

Constitution personnel: Ahmad "J.R." Gilbert is a 6-6 lefty with a deft shooting stroke. He is the franchise . . . Kimar Williams is a streaky shooter who can get to the rack . . . Floyd Preito is a floor general with playoff experience . . . Akeem King brings feisty defense, while Raheem Liggins is the muscle inside . . . Off the bench: Chad Andrews is a physical presence to bang and board and Lincoln Kpokuyou is a disruptor on defense.

What King must do: Dictate tempo and force turnovers. Constitution has shown it can be sped up and then turn the ball over . . . King must crowd Ahmad Gilbert, 6-6 and with guard skills, force him to catch far from the basket and put the ball on the floor . . . Offensively, don't settle for jumpers and stay patient.

What Constitution must do: Take care of the ball and don't get rattled by defensive pressure. After a 16-for-33 performance at the foul line in the semifinals - make free throws! Offensive execution in the halfcourt is a must, which means not relying on Gilbert to make tough shots as a bailout. Keep King off the offensive glass.

What can be expected: King will try to speed the tempo with defensive pressure, but try to be patient and probing offensively. Constitution will look to ride Gilbert, but must get offensive production elsewhere. The winner of the turnover margin will wear the crown, and recent trends indicate King cares for the ball a smidgen better.

- Aaron Carter

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