It was one of those slow-motion deals for everyone at Temple's Liacouras Center, but after the shot fell short it turned into a fast-forward celebration for King, which had won its first Public League basketball championship with a 46-44 victory.
The team that struggled to mix well early in the season finally found the right chemistry late and received important contributions from several sources. Sophomore guard Jabri McCall took the MVP honors with 13 points (nine in the third quarter) on 3-for-6 shooting and 5-for-12 at the foul line.
Foreman added 12 (3-for-11), while senior forward Jahmir Taylor coupled 14 rebounds with four blocks and six points. Senior guard Greg Bennett notched eight each of rebounds and points before fouling out late. Junior Brandon McNair snagged seven boards off the bench.
King (22-4, 7-3) started the season with just five returning players and struggled to blend in several others via transfer.
"We always had talent," said coach Sean Colson, "but we built mental toughness throughout the year because we didn't really have it, to be honest, because of the chemistry of bringing in other people. But we ended up getting it."
Foreman came over from now-closed Roberts Vaux with the hopes of bringing King a title. So, does it taste as good as expected?
"Even sweeter," he said with smile, "even sweeter. I [could always] see us winning it, but . . . I don't even know what to say."
A big third-quarter by McCall did the talking. After King led at the half, 19-18, McCall scored nine points in an 11-1 run that ended with King ahead, 30-21. His first salvo was a four-point play after knocking down a three from the left side. Another triple from the right followed by a floater in the lane, and King was off and running.
Constitution (22-5, 8-2) didn't go quietly and actually held King to just one field goal in the fourth quarter (by Taylor with 1:30 left). Kimar Williams led the Generals with 12 points, while Gilbert added six (3-for-16, 0-for-7 from three) with 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Just before Gilbert missed the last-second three, Williams drove the lane and made a layup that would have tied the game at 46. However, timeout was clearly called, and granted, before Williams started the shot and players from both teams stopped playing, which allowed him access to the lane. ConHigh fans presumably didn't hear the whistles and erupted with cheers as if the game was tied, but reality settled in quickly.
Ultimately, a 1-for-13 day from trey and 12-for-53 (23 percent) overall spelled defeat. King will now play Roman Catholic, which won the regular-season Catholic League title, for the AAAA city championship next week at St. Joseph's University.
The poor shooting on both sides (King was 13-for-35) could be partly attributed to high school athletes playing with a college three-point line. Both teams were made aware before tipoff that high school three-point lines (19 feet, 9 inches) were not on the court. Instead, both coaches consented to the college lines, which are a foot longer. Constitution has no plans to fight the outcome.
As for McCall, the 6-footer from South Philly also contributed six rebounds, two steals, some sticky defense and late leadership. He came over from Math, Civics and Sciences Charter this season.
"His heart is phenomenal," Foreman said of McCall. "He's got that South Philly heart. He told me we had to finish this game and that it was going to take the team, but that me and him had to lead. Once I knew he was focused, I knew we had this game."
Colson commented that McCall has grown into somewhat of a leader but doesn't forcefully command ears yet as a sophomore. After all, this was his first season of high school basketball. However, that might change after yesterday's MVP-performance, which netted an historic championship and was followed by a forward-thinking attitude.
"It feels great," McCall said. "We've been putting in all this work all year and we finally accomplished it. But after today, we have to stop reminiscing about it and get to the city championship and then to the states."
According to TedSilary.com, Colson became just the third coach since the 1938-39 season to start for a Pub title team (1992, Franklin Learning Center) and come back to coach a champ.
On Twitter: @AceCarterDN