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PIAA A: Sankofa upsets Girard in convincing fashion

03/10/2018, 2:30am EST
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA--Certainly facing the reigning runner-ups isn’t the ideal way to start a state playoff run.

But that’s where Sankofa Freedom found itself on Friday night as the Warriors met up with Girard College at South Philadelphia High School in the first round of the PIAA Class A tournament

The Cavs had everyone back from last year’s state runner-up team, including 6-foot-8 forward Mikeal Jones, and added 6-foot-3 guard Rodney Carson. Despite its loss to Faith Christian in the District 1 title, Girard came into the tournament as one of the favorites to make it back to Hershey.

“People outside of school were telling us that this is our funeral,” Sankofa sophomore Derrius Ward said.

Despite the outside pessimism, Sankofa headed into the game with plenty of confidence. The Warriors have four of five starters back from last year’s team that advanced to the second round of states and headed into Friday night’s contest coming off their second straight District 12 title.

They made those “people” look foolish, breezing past Girard, 80-59, and advancing to the second round of the PIAA tournament, where the will play District 4 champion Lourdes Regional on Tuesday.

“The fact that they’re talented and the fact that other people felt like we were underdogs didn’t really impact us because we’ve been there before,” Sankofa head coach Isaiah Thomas said. “I’ve got an experienced group of guys who played in the state tournament before, who know what it means to be an underdog coming into the game, so if anything that’s inspiration and motivation for them.”

Sankofa led wire-to-wire. The Warriors went up 19-14 after the first quarter and took a 31-23 lead into halftime behind 14 points from junior Scott Spann. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Spann said his mindset was to get to the paint, not settling for outside shots.

The third quarter was a wild one with the teams combining for 62 points. Helped by some sharp shooting from Ward, the Warriors built their advantage to as many as 18 points before entering the fourth up 65-51.

Ward knocked down all five of his shots in the quarter, including four 3-point attempts. He had just three points in the first half but finished the game with 18, 14 of which came in the third.

“My coach told me that I gotta turn it up a little bit if we want to get the W and I turned it up,” Ward said.

Following a third quarter dominated by offense, Sankofa used its defense to close out the victory. The Warriors implemented a 1-2-2 defense throughout the game in order to try and slow down Jones and force the other Girard players to beat them.

Jones finished with 29 points, but he had just two in the fourth quarter. Sankofa held Girard without a point for the first three and a half minutes of the fourth and held the Cavs without a field goal for almost six minutes to start the period.

“We usually don’t play as much zone as we did, especially that 1-2-2," Thomas said, "but we played it today because we thought that it would be a defense that would work against their style of offense and we would be able to pack the paint against the big kid.

The Warriors have not played their best in some of their biggest games this season.

Thomas looks at a regular season matchup with LIncoln for first place in the Public League 'B' division and a Public League quarterfinal loss to Mastery North as prime examples. 

Not only pulling out a win, but doing it in convincing fashion, is something the Warriors can carry with them into the next round.

"The games that we felt like we wanted to win we haven't won," Thomas said. "Today is a day where we can look at that big game and say we won."

Friday, March 9
Penncrest 49, Shippensburg 36
Northeastern 69, Sun Valley 60
Abington Heights 75, Garden Spot 46
Chester 61, Martin Luther King 47
York 63, Holy Ghost Prep 59
Bonner-Prendergast 56, New Oxford 45
Allentown Central Catholic 69, Greencastle-Antrim 52
Dallas 70, Lower Dauphin 54
Milton Hershey 75, West Chester Rustin 52
Bishop Shanahan 76, Hershey 38
Archbishop Carroll 66, Wissahickon 59
Lampeter-Strasburg 54, Bangor 42
Highlands 52, Franklin Regional 31
Carrick 53, Hollidaysburg 38
Mars 68, Hampton 47
Trinity 45, Cathedral Prep 42

Tuesday, March 13
Sites and times, TBA
Penncrest (1-1, 26-3) vs. Northeastern (3-3, 27-3)
Abington Heights (2-1, 23-3) vs. Chester (1-4, 19-8)
York (3-2, 17-10) vs. Bonner-Prendergast (12-1, 23-4)
Allentown Central Catholic (11-1, 24-4) vs. Dallas (2-2, 21-5)
Milton Hershey (3-1, 24-5) vs. Bishop Shanahan (1-2, 23-5)
Archbishop Carroll (12-3, 19-7) vs. Lampeter-Strasburg (3-6, 26-4)
Highlands (7-4, 19-5) vs. Carrick (8-1, 20-5)
Mars (7-1, 22-4) vs. Trinity (7-3, 21-5)

Friday, March 9
Berks Catholic 47, John Bartram 43
Valley View 64, Mifflinburg 45
Conwell-Egan 73, Wilson Area 58
Bethlehem Catholic 71, Nanticoke 30
Imhotep Charter 76, Kennard-Dale 30
Scranton Prep 69, Tamaqua 35
Overbrook 76, Lower Moreland 51
Middletown 66, Montoursville 57
Bishop McDevitt 60, Danville 45
Huntingdon 60, Lancaster Catholic 58
Quaker Valley 54, Grove City 48
Hickory 92, Belle Vernon 52
New Castle 79, Fort LeBoeuf 48
South Fayette 55, Clearfield 44
Johnstown 67, Indiana 59
Sharon 72, Valley 45

Tuesday, March 13
Sites and times, TBA
Berks Catholic (3-1, 27-2) vs. Valley View (2-2, 17-9)
Conwell-Egan (12-2, 9-15) vs. Bethlehem Catholic (11-1, 26-3)
Imhotep Charter (12-1, 27-2) vs. Scranton Prep (2-1, 21-5)
Overbrook (12-3, 14-8) vs. Middletown (3-3, 18-7)
Bishop McDevitt (3-2, 15-12) vs. Huntingdon (6-1, 22-2)
Quaker Valley (7-2, 24-1) vs. Hickory (10-2, 21-5)
New Castle (7-1, 22-4) vs. South Fayette (7-5, 17-8)
Johnstown (6-2, 19-7) vs. Sharon (10-1, 24-2)

Friday, March 9
Plumstead Christian 62, York Country Day 50
Sullivan County 49, Pottsville Nativity 43
Millville 59, Lincoln Leadership 40
Faith Christian 80, Berks Christian 34
Lourdes Regional 71, Greenwood 33
Sankofa Freedom 80, Girard College 59
Susquehanna Community 58, Conestoga Christian 54
Lancaster Country Day 74, Blacklick Valley 51
Vincentian 60, Cameron County 53
Shade 67, Cornell 63
Elk County Catholic 66, Jamestown 40
Bishop Carroll 85, Imani Christian 76
Eden Christian 30, Johnsonburg 28
Shanksville-Stonycreek 63, St. Joseph’s Catholic 51
Union Area 71, North Clarion 56
Kennedy Catholic 73, Propel Andrew Street 26

Tuesday, March 13
Sites and times TBA
Plumstead Christian (1-3, 18-10) vs. Sullivan County (4-3, 20-6)
Millville (4-2, 22-3) vs. Faith Christian (1-1, 26-2)
Lourdes Regional (4-1, 23-4) vs. Sankofa Freedom (12-1, 18-7)
Susquehanna Community (2-1, 18-9) vs. Lancaster Country Day (3-2, 19-8)
Vincentian (7-1, 19-7) vs. Shade (5-1, 23-3)
Elk County Catholic (9-2, 22-6) vs. Bishop Carroll (6-1, 18-8)
Eden Christian (7-6, 17-6) vs. Shanksville-Stonycreek (5-2, 19-7)
Union Area (7-2, 18-6) vs. Kennedy Catholic (10-1, 19-4)

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