Leechburg boys stage furious comeback before Imani Christian hangs on for win

Friday, January 28, 2022 | 9:41 PM

Imani Christian’s bus was late to the Leechburg gym with a misunderstanding of the start time.

The Saints all but debussed and walked on to the floor to build a huge lead, only to see Leechburg stage an amazing comeback.

The Blue Devils cut a 25-point deficit to five early in the fourth quarter, but the Saints were strong at the end to record an 80-64 victory before a huge, vocal crowd at Lewis Hicks Gym.

Imani (10-5, 5-0) built a 65-40 lead on a 3-pointer by Issac Compton with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left in the third. But Leechburg (11-3, 2-2) stormed back with a 20-0 run to slice the lead to 65-60 with 5:29 to go.

The Saints seemed to get a second wind after that and rolled to the big Section 3-A victory.

Blue Devils junior Braylan Lovelace, playing on a sprained ankle, had a career-high 32 points.

Virgil Hall led Imani with 16 points, and the Wesley brothers — Avery and Amir — had 15 and 12 points, respectively.

“They fought well. Leechburg has a tough team and plays strong,” said Saints coach Omar Foster. “But my guys just stuck in there and persevered, stay disciplined, and it went hand-in-hand with our business.”

Imani’s 6-foot-10 freshman, Alier Maluk, scored eight points in the first six minutes of the game, including a pair of 3-pointers. But he spent much of the night in foul trouble and spent considerable time on the bench while his teammates picked up the slack.

Ten Imani players hit the scoring column.

“We’re a really deep team,” Foster said. “I could really play 12, but everybody’s disciplined and works hard in practice, and I like to reward those guys.”

Leechburg needed to play practically mistake-free basketball. But the Blue Devils committed eight turnovers in the first quarter while the Saints had none.

“In our locker room, I feel our team deserves a section championship,” said Leechburg coach Damian Davies. “The price of single-A though, is private school powerhouses. Every year, they’re so unbelievably loaded. I feel we’re one of the best public school, single-A teams.”

Leechburg fell behind by 19 at the start of the second quarter and cut the Imani lead to 12 at the start of the third on Eli Rich’s 3-point basket.

But the Saints went on a 17-4 tear and looked to be on their way.

“We mixed it up and we went back to what we do, pressure-wise,” Davies said. “We got some turnovers. Braylan was in a walking boot all week. He took it off (Thursday) and came out and had a great game tonight. He was a man on a mission tonight. I was excited to play at home. I thought everybody played so hard and gave us a chance.”

The Blue Devils were hurt by four turnovers in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, missing a chance to make the score even closer

Rich finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Lovelace pulled down nine rebounds.

Leechburg has played only four section games and will play three games each of the next two weeks.

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