Behind 48 points from Nate Brazil, Imani Christian returns to PIAA Class A title game

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Monday, March 18, 2024 | 11:34 PM


At the 4:26 mark of the first quarter in the PIAA boys Class A semifinal between WPIAL champion Imani Christian and District 6 winner Bishop Carroll, the Saints called timeout after Nate Brazil scored his fifth and sixth point of the game to put him over 1,000 points in his career.

The senior spent the rest of the night showing why these Saints are the boys of Brazil.

Brazil scored 48 points to lead Imani Christian past Bishop Carroll, 98-69, as the Saints are marching back to Hershey looking to repeat as state champions.

“Nate played his butt off,” Imani Christian coach Khayree Wilson said. “I was glad I had a courtside seat just to watch him. I think he’s really tapping in to all he’s worked for. He has been working hard this season to prove himself that he can play at the next level, and I think he just displayed that.”

The outcome of the game was never in doubt by the midway point of the opening quarter.

Imani Christian led 6-0 and 12-3 before going on a 17-0 run until the final moments of the opening quarter to lead 29-7 after one.

“We knew coming into the game they were able to shoot well, so in the first quarter, we kept the pressure on, which created the big lead,” Wilson said. “I took the pressure off in the second quarter and they hit like seven 3s, so we put the pressure back on so we could slow them down as much as possible because you don’t want shooters to find their rhythm.”

Despite making seven 3-pointers in the second quarter, Bishop Carroll could only knock one point off their deficit as the Saints offense continued to pour it on, leading at the break, 54-33.

The Huskies continued to show in the second half how they won the District 6 title by connecting on a total of 12 3-pointers for the game.

However, BC had no answers to slow down Brazil and the Saints transition game, which time and again turned defense into fast-break points on offense with a little glitz and glitter.

“I believe we played solid,” Wilson said. “We stuck to the game plan in what we were trying to do. I’m proud of my guys. We attacked this week pretty strong, and we knew we were focused on how we wanted to show ourselves.”

With 4:58 remaining in the fourth quarter, junior Dayshawn Burnett converted a rebound as Imani increased its lead to 88-57 and the mercy rule kicked in with a running clock the rest of the way, a rarity in the PIAA semifinals.

Bishop Carroll sophomore Jace Casses had seven 3-pointers and ended up leading the Huskies with 25 points. Senior Luke Repko scored 22 points and senior Parker Alexander hit four 3s to finish with 12 points as Bishop Carroll ended its season with a record of 18-11.

In all, eight Imani Christian players dented the scoreboard with junior R.J. Sledge joining Brazil in double figures with 13 points.

This road to Hershey is a bit different for Brazil comparted to last year.

In the 2023 postseason, Brazil was a spectator since he had to sit out because of the PIAA transfer rule after coming to Imani Christian from Nazareth Prep following his sophomore season.

“This is way more important,” a humbled Brazil said. “I thank my team for staying locked in with me the whole season. I’ve been trying to do my best all year. Knowing this is my last year, every moment I have to take in. It might be emotional in Hershey.”

Imani Christian improves to 18-10 with its seventh straight victory and will now prepare for a familiar face in the state finals at the Giant Center at 2 p.m. Thursday.

The Saints battle District 5 winner Berlin-Brothersvalley in a rematch of last year’s PIAA Class A title game won by Imani Christian, 81-64.

“It feels excellent,” Wilson said. There’s a lot of people that thought we couldn’t get back there this year will all the turnover from players to coaches, so it feels good to step right back in where we left off last year, and hopefully we can defend our title and walk away with back-to-back PIAA state championships.”

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