Imani Christian slams Farrell, setting up anticipated rematch with Union

Friday, March 17, 2023 | 11:06 PM

Imani Christian boys basketball coach Omar Foster valued seeing his program take the next step. The Saints fought through early foul trouble and poor shooting Friday night, but they ultimately overwhelmed District 10 champion Farrell, 80-50, in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals.

“Last year, we lost in the quarterfinals to Bishop Canevin,” Foster said. “We know that we worked hard to get here and are praying our work pays off.”

Imani Christian’s path to its first appearance in the state semifinals has left many battered opponents lying in its wake. The Saints have won four of their six playoff games by 30 points or more and have an average margin of victory of 29.1 points per game.

Imani Christrian (20-7) dominated the Steelers despite seeing 6-foot-11 big man Alier Maluk sitting for most of the second half due to foul trouble. The Saints opened the game on an 18-2 run thanks to six points from Virgil Hall, who finished with 21 points.

Steelers coach Myron Lowe said slow starts have plagued his team.

“All year, we’ve been starting off slow,” Lowe said. “I told the kids starting out slow and free throws are going to kill us one of these times. It got us tonight.”

Farrell didn’t make things easy for the Saints in the second quarter.

Thanks to Imani Christian shooting 0 for 8 from the 3-point line in the second quarter, the Steelers were able to cut the lead to 39-27 at halftime. Saints guard RJ Sledge, who scored a game-high 29 points, said Imani wasn’t playing at the right tempo in the first half.

“We had to calm down,” Sledge said. “We were going too fast. We locked in on defense and you see what happened.”

Farrell got a spark to the second half when Khayne Matthews opened with a jumper that cut the lead to 10. However, the Steelers got no closer.

Sledge scored 14 points in the third quarter, including a driving layup that answered Matthew’s basket.

“That’s who that young man is,” Foster said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He believes in the system and believes in his coaches.”

Despite having to send Maluk to the bench after he picked up his fourth foul with 6 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter, Imani put the clamps down on defense.

The Saints didn’t allow Farrell (22-4) to make a 3-pointer in the third quarter and stretched the lead to 20. Lamont Sanders led the Steelers with 10 points.

“We had to keep our hands up at the rim. Every time we swiped down with our hands, it’s a foul,” Sledge said. “We had to play with our feet.”

Imani will now meet Union on Monday at a time and site to be determined in a rematch of the WPIAL Class A championship game with a chance to play in the state championship for the first time in school history on the line.

It will be an eagerly anticipated matchup. After Imani Christian defeated Union, 64-41, in the WPIAL finals, Scotties coach Mark Stanley questioned the fairness of his public school team facing a private school team whose roster includes multiple transfers.

Foster believes his team is battle-tested enough to handle whatever comes its way. When things didn’t go right against Farrell, the Saints found a way to make things work.

Imani just needs to keep fine-tuning things.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Foster said. “I thought we played good defense. I thought that we got out in transition. It’s hard to be effective when you are in early foul trouble. They took Alier out of the game.”


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