Jamil Manigo (above, in Dec.) had 16 points as McDevitt won at Bonner on Friday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
DREXEL HILL — For the second time in the final half-minute, Jamil Manigo stepped to the charity stripe. Having already hit his first four free throws — including a pair that put Bishop McDevitt up five just a few seconds earlier — one might’ve expected the Lancers senior to salt the game away with two more makes.
Except Manigo’s fifth try rimmed out. And Bonner had a shot.
The only problem? The Friars couldn’t get it off before the buzzer.
With a massive 47-45 win at Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast Friday night, McDevitt locked up a top-four seed in the Catholic League playoffs, guaranteeing the Friars a first-round bye and home quarterfinal matchup next weekend. And Manigo played as big a role as any player for McDevitt, pacing his team with 16 points — including six in the fourth quarter — on 6-of-9 shooting to go along with eight rebounds.
“This was the most important game of our season,” Manigo said. “It had to be a must-win, so when [Coach] said it was ‘winning time,’ we all had to get focused on winning.”
Although that message didn’t come from coach Will Chavis until the final stanza, the Lancers had their backs against the wall early. They trailed 24-17 midway through the second quarter and were unable to grab the lead at any point in the first three quarters, missing on a pair of and-one opportunities in the third quarter that would’ve put them in front.
“We handled adversity,” Chavis said. “We didn’t fold. Earlier in the season, we folded a little bit, but now we’ve come together, we stuck together, and we pulled it out.”
The turnaround this season — from 4-3 to 15-6, including nine straight Catholic League wins — is emblematic of McDevitt’s complete 180 since this senior class arrived on campus. In 2016-17, the final year before Chavis took over, the Lancers finished 4-17 with just one PCL win in 12 tries.
The year after that, they were still just 13-11 and 4-9 in the PCL.
As Chavis explained, it took some buy-in and plenty of time to right the ship in Wyncote.
“We take it game-by-game and just try to keep grinding,” Chavis said. “Jamil and a lot of the kids in that locker room, they’ve literally changed the program by believing in what we’re saying as coaches and just working hard every day.”
One of those points of emphasis from Chavis was defense, and it showed Friday. After giving up 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the first quarter, McDevitt held Bonner to 27 points the rest of the way on 11-of-29 from the field.
“When I was a freshman, practice was not hard,” Manigo said. “When [Chavis] came, we ran, we ran, we kept running. We did all the defensive drills first and everything else last. … If you weren’t playing defense, you weren’t on the court.”
For Manigo, the fruits of this labor are even sweeter. Not only are he and the Lancers now winning with regularity, but they’ll have a shot to finish second in the Catholic League with a win Sunday at Roman Catholic thanks to Neumann-Goretti’s shocking upset against Cardinal O’Hara.
That’s not to mention the chance to play at the Palestra in a little more than a week, where there are sure to be Division I coaches in the house for the PCL semifinals.
It’s an opportunity that could prove invaluable to the 6-foot-4 forward.
“I’m just trying to go to college for free,” Manigo said. “[I want to] support my family and make something out of this basketball career.”
Right now, only Division II and III schools that are looking at the McDevitt senior. Manigo said he’s talked with local programs like West Chester and Millersville, and a coach from Rosemont was spotted talking to Manigo after Friday’s game.
But if McDevitt can win just one postseason game and earn a chance to play in one of basketball’s most hallowed venues, who knows what that could mean for both Manigo and the Lancers.
“He plays within himself,” Chavis said of Manigo. “If Jamil really worked on his body, he’d be a surefire Division I player. He’s sneaky athletic because of his frame, but if his frame were different, he wouldn’t be sneaky.”
And Manigo recognizes that opportunity is most certainly there for the taking.
“People say I’m too heavy, people say that I’m not athletic enough, and that really gets to me,” Manigo said. “Every time we play a big team…I know there are coaches watching. I feel that if I play against another D-I player, coaches are going to see that.”
McDevitt: 14 | 10 | 10 | 13 | 47
Bonner: 18 | 8 | 8 | 11 | 45
McDevitt: 19-40 FG, 4-12 3PT, 5-10 FT
Bonner: 17-39 FG, 4-23 3PT, 7-8 FT
McDevitt: Manigo 16, R. Smith 14, Mosley 9, Harris 3, Amadou 2, G. Smith 2, Young 1
Bonner: Edwards 14, Watson 14, Uduma 6, Welde 6, Eagan 5