Tariq Ingraham (above) had 23 points as Bonner-Prendergast secured the regular-season PCL crown. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
Bonner-Prendergast came in feeling the pressure.
The Friars needed to win their season finale on the road against Cardinal O’Hara to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs. The Lions, having already clinched the No. 9 seed, were playing for pride as well as hoping to build some momentum heading into the postseason.
Bonner had difficulty dealing with those factors for much of Sunday afternoon, but eventually the Friars displayed why they’ve been the best team in the PCL all season long.
Behind forward Tariq Ingraham’s 23 points and nine rebounds and some timely plays down the stretch, Bonner-Prendergast outlasted Cardinal O’Hara, 67-63 to clinched the PCL regular-season title and clinch the top seed in the playoffs.
While the Friars walked off the court with the victory, it was the Lions who imposed their will early on.
Ingraham scored the first five points for Bonner-Prendergast (19-3, 12-1 PCL) and Isaiah Wong, who finished with 19 points, scored the next four. Ingraham put up 15 of his 23 in the first half and asserted himself against the smaller O’Hara front line.
“No one else was really scoring the ball or getting buckets so I had to step up for the team,” Ingraham said. “It was another night where I had to step up and carry the team.”
Still, Cardinal O’Hara seemed to have an answer for every bucket in the first half. Jordan Hall and Askia Hamilton hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions to give the Lions an 8-7 lead. From there, Austin Peay commit Antwuan Butler took over.
Antwuan "Booty" Butler celebrated Senior Day and then nearly led the Lions to a big-time upset. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Butler’s first basket came on an and-one trey from the corner. He followed that with six more points to push the Lions advantage to 22-17 one minute into the second quarter. He closed out the half hitting a layup to give his team a 35-29 at the break. Cardinal O’Hara head coach Jason Harrigan felt the rest of the team was following Butler’s lead.
“It was tremendous and I was really impressed by him,” Harrigan said. “He kept fighting and leading the entire way. That was the whole thing about him being here was to be a leader and show these young guys how to play.”
Butler’s prowess over the game continued into the third quarter but he showcased some of his passing ability. He found Kyle Maska (eight points) for an easy bucket off a pick and roll then kicked out to a wide open Garrett Ripp (eight) for a three. His floater in the lane put Cardinal O’Hara (10-11, 5-8) up 44-37 but two possessions later he picked up his third foul. It was a small opening but one Bonner-Prendergast head coach Jack Concannon knew his team had to capitalize on.
“We knew they were going to come out like that,” Concannon said. “. [Antwuan] Butler is as good as anybody in the league. When you have a kid like that, you can play with anyone.”
Wong started to give going as he nailed a difficult pull-up jumper then a runner followed up an and1 to put the Friars within one with 49 seconds left in the third. Ajiri Johnson had a quiet first half but his two free throws on the next possession gave Bonner-Prendergast its first lead since the opening quarter. Johnson finished with 12 points, five rebounds and a block.
From there, the Friars never trailed again. Ingraham scored four of his team’s final eight points to help close out the crucial victory. Cardinal O’Hara will play Archbishop Ryan on Wednesday in the opening round of the PCL playoffs while the Friars will await the result of that game as well as Bishop McDevitt and St. Joe’s Prep to see who they will face.
For Harrigan, whose team defeated a Prep team boasting several standouts such as Darius Kinnel and La Salle commit Ed Croswell and only fell to No. 2 seed Neumann-Goretti by one, this game was a good barometer for what he hopes the Lions can accomplish moving forward.
“If we play the right way, I think we can beat anybody,” Harrigan said. “In the third quarter, we had a couple of mistakes that we would like to clean up but having them play against a team like that and have control of the game gives us a lot of momentum going into the playoffs.”
Concannon was pleased with the way his group responded to claim the number one seed but knows their focus now needs to shift to who the opponent will be coming into their building on Friday night in the PCL quarterfinals.
“It’s a great thing but it really doesn’t mean anything right now,” Concannon said. “All that matters, as it has been for our team all year, is taking it one game at a time. Friday night is all that matters and whoever we play we have to go out, find a way to get a win and go from there.”