Imhotep caps perfect Pub season with title

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Imhotep teammates (from left) Ashley Murray, Bionca Dunham and Deja Reynolds celebrate Pub title.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Imhotep teammates (from left) Ashley Murray, Bionca Dunham and Deja Reynolds celebrate Pub title.
Posted: February 25, 2014

IT WAS the perfect ending to a perfect Public League season for Imhotep Institute Charter High guard Deja Reynolds.

After verbally committing to play at Temple earlier in the season, the 5-9 junior helped the Imhotep Panthers (22-2) earn a 41-38 victory yesterday over Northeast High (17-4) in the Public League girls' title game at the Liacouras Center. For Reynolds, winning the school's first title was even more bittersweet because it was played at Temple.

"It means a lot for me to do it here at Temple," Reynolds said. "What it really means is that I'm going to show my coach that I can help us get a championship when I'm there."

More than an hour before the 1 p.m. tipoff, Reynolds' mother, Kamilah Durham, sat in the first row behind Imhotep's bench, soaking in the atmosphere of where her daughter will soon play collegiately.

"She chose Temple because of what she wants to major in, which is sports medicine or something medically related," Durham said. "She also has always loved the Owls, of course. Temple's coach, Tonya Cardoza, was very embrasive toward us and she made us feel at home. The choice was also easy for Deja because she wanted to travel and get away, however, we were very impressed because of the American Athletic Conference.

"When we left her visit at Temple, I remember that my daughter just hugged me and said, 'Mom, I am so happy.' This is why we gave Temple our verbal commitment and we are just very happy and excited about it. We're from Philadelphia so of course we are going to bring a big fan base down to root the Owls on and hopefully they can go all the way to the top."

"My mom is very supportive," Reynolds said. "She's always at my games and always cheering me on. I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for her."

Before Reynolds could celebrate with teammates, a close battle was fought against the Vikings. It was a rough start for Reynolds, who began the game 0-for-14 from the field and did not record a point in the first half. Luckily for Imhotep coach Sabriana Allen, she got help from her two big players against the undersized Vikings.

"It took us a minute to realize that we had the advantage inside and because of my two bigs who went hard, that allowed us to do it," Allen said. "Northeast didn't really have an answer for us in the paint because their guards are their best players and inside players are not. That ultimately won the championship for us today."

Sophomore forward Bionca Dunham, who was named the game's MVP after the Panthers victory, finished the game with 10 points, 16 rebounds, one block and two steals. After committing to Iona College, 6-1 senior center Ashley Murray joined Dunham in taking over in the paint with seven points, 21 rebounds and four blocks.

"The height doesn't really mean anything when playing a team like that," Dunham said with her MVP trophy in hand. "We just talked a lot more then they did and we were able to box out with our hands up on defense. It's the simple things like that which won this game for us."

It was a nine-point Panthers' lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Vikings began to chip away. Northeast senior guard Lauren Willis, who entered averaging 25 points per game in the playoffs, scored 12 points in the second half and finished with 15, but it was not enough as Imhotep was able to stop the threat.

"They kept creeping up and I couldn't get any buckets so I just got my team involved," said Reynolds, who finished with five points while leading the Panthers with four assists. "You can see Bionca got the MVP because you've got to give the ball to everybody and that's what we did today."

For coach Allen, winning the Public League title was a surreal and emotional moment. At the sound of the final buzzer, Allen looked up to the scoreboard while jumping up and down. She then ran over to hug and congratulate Reynolds and the rest of players on the floor.

"All I can say is that I really want to thank God right now," Allen said. "It's been 4 years and in 4 years, we were able to do it. I'm flying high right now and I don't need anything else right now. This is everything I was waiting for and all I've been talking about. All I wanted was a championship in the Public League and nothing else and here we are."

The undefeated Pub champions have a chance at the District 12 title when they play Neumann-Goretti at St. Joseph's Prep on Saturday at 2 p.m.

"The toughest part is knowing everybody is going to come out hungry, as we saw [yesterday]," Reynolds said. "Everybody wants to win so you've got to do something different and we usually do."

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