Martin Luther King holds on to beat Constitution, win Public League

Martin Luther King's Jahmir Taylor goes up for two points past Constitution's Ahmad Gilbert in the first quarter.
Martin Luther King's Jahmir Taylor goes up for two points past Constitution's Ahmad Gilbert in the first quarter. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 25, 2014

There were just 5.8 seconds left in Sunday afternoon's Public League boys' basketball championship game when Martin Luther King - ahead by two points - returned to its bench and huddled around coach Sean Colson.

The coach told his group to expect Constitution's star guard Ahmad Gilbert to receive the inbounds pass and be ready for his attempt at a winning three-pointer. Colson instructed Brandon McNair, King's lockdown defender, to put a hand in Gilbert's face. But do not foul, Colson pleaded.

"If it's meant for us to lose on a three-pointer with a hand in his face, then that's what happens," Colson said.

The final play went as predicted. McNair was there with a hand, and Gilbert's try just missed. Jahmir Taylor grabbed the rebound, tucked the ball under his arm, and stomped his feet. The Liacouras Center buzzer sounded to seal King's 46-44 win and its first-ever Public League boys' basketball crown.

Sammy Foreman, King's captain, said his heart "pounded, pounded, pounded" as Gilbert launched the shot. Foreman lost in the championship last year with Vaux, which closed at the end of the school year. He finished Sunday with 12 points and three assists.

"To be here the very next year is huge," said Foreman. "But to win it is the greatest dream ever. I wanted to win a Public League championship since I was a child."

Jabri McCall, a sophomore guard, carried King (23-4) with a nine-point third quarter and was named the game's MVP. Foreman said McCall is the city's best sophomore with "a heart that will carry him far."

With 3 minutes, 55 seconds left in the fourth, McCall raced in from past the three-point line as Foreman readied to shoot a pair of free throws. The sophomore grabbed Foreman by the head, whispered in his ear, and gave him a shove. Foreman hit both of his free throws, and King's lead improved to five.

"I had to tell him where he was last year," said McCall, who led King with 13 points. "Get this championship."

Taylor's rebound at the buzzer was his 15th of the game. He also had three blocks as the Cougars' defense held the Generals (22-5) to five second-half field goals.

Taylor's teammates quickly mobbed him, and someone tossed the ball into the air. Colson sprinted from the opposite end of the court and jumped into the players' pile. He jived his legs, shoved one of his assistants, and scooped his son Kody into the air.

The second-year coach - who won a Public League title 22 years ago at Franklin Learning Center - said he was not sure how to celebrate. But he knew how to draw up the winning play.

Martin Luther King 9 10 15 12 - 46

Constitution 9 9 10 16 - 44

M: Jabri McCall 13, Sammy Foreman 12, Jahmir Taylor 6, Chase Rodgers 2, Greg Bennett 8, Brandon McNair 2, Tyheem Harmon 3.

C: Akeem King 8, Kimar Williams 12, Raheem Liggins 2, Ahmad Gilbert 6, Floyd Preito 6, Chad Andrews 4, Lincoln Kpokuyou 6.