By Pat Lammer
FORT MYERS — Defending champion University School was knocked off by Philly Imhotep Charter, 57-54, Thursday in the quarterfinals of the 46th annual City of Palms Classic at Suncoast Credit Union Arena.
The Sharks entered the game ranked No. 4 nationally by USA Today and No. 5 by MaxPreps. But cold shooting doomed University School (7-1) and sent the Sharks to their first loss in eight games.
Imhotep Charter, ranked No. 20 by USA Today and No. 23 by MaxPreps, will surely rise on the national scene. The Panthers (5-1) advance to meet Oak Hill Academy (Va.) in Friday night’s semifinals. McEachern (Ga.) and Mountain Brook (Ala.) will clash in the other semi.
“That’s a really, really good team,” University School coach Jim Carr said of Imhotep. “I’ve been saying it even before we came down here. Those guys are 61-2 in the past two years and they’re champions. They had a win and they didn’t splinter at all.
“I thought our guys showed good heart. It came down to a couple rebounds, a couple finishes at the rim. But we’re going to get a lot better from tonight.”
Maryland recruit Donta Scott (pictured) led Imhotep on both ends of the floor. Offensively, the 6-foot-7 standout canned 8 of 14 field-goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, on the way to a 23-point, 7-rebound performance.
Defensively, Scott and Co. were huge after Xavier signee Dahmir Bishop went down in the first quarter with a severe ankle injury. You needed two hands to count the number of charges Imhotep took.
“Our style kind of represents our city,” Imhotep Charter coach Andre Noble said of their suffocating defense.
University School’s starting five found themselves in a big hole early. The Sharks could not buy a bucket.
University School scored just 3 points in the first quarter and trailed 11-3 after one. Imhotep held a 25-15 lead at the half as University School shot 2 for 20 (10 percent) over the first two quarters.
Imhotep held a 35-18 advantage with just 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter when they tide began to turn.
University School slowly made a run behind senior All-American Vernon Carey Jr. and junior phenom Scottie Barnes.
Carey connected on 4 field goals and made 8 free throws over the final two periods, but it was Barnes who took over with drives to the basket and three big 3-pointers in the final 4:15 of the game.
Down two in the final four seconds, Barnes was fouled and went to the free-throw line. He made the first to cut the score to 55-54. But after a Imhotep time out, Barnes missed the second free throw and Imhotep was able to hold on.
Carey, a Duke commit, finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Barnes, one of the top juniors in the nation, had 21 & 9.
But other than Carey and Barnes, the rest of University School’s lineup accounted for one made field goal (by Zay Flowers) in the game. Jace Howard finished 0 for 9 from the field and fellow junior Roger McFarlane went 0 for 3.
University School ended up shooting 14 for 47 from the field (29.8 percent) and 3 of 10 from 3-point land.
Fatayn Wesley was the only other player in double figures for Imhotep with 10. Imhotep finished 18 for 51 from the field (35.3 percent).
University School takes on IMG Academy on Friday in a showdown of programs that came into the tournament ranked top-5 in the nation.
If you have high school basketball news, you can reach Pat Lammer via e-mail at PatALammer@Gmail.com or via text at 954-661-9671.
IMHOTEP CHARTER 57, UNIVERSITY SCHOOL 54
US (7-1): Alters 0-2-2, Barnes 8-2-21, Ja. Howard 0-1-1, Carey 5-14-24, McFarlane 0-2-2, Grant 0-0-0, Perez 0-0-0, Flowers 1-2-4, Je. Howard 0-0-0, Beaubrun 0-0-0, Hendricks 0-0-0.
IC (5-1): Bishop 0-0-0, Knox 2-2-7, Wesley 3-2-10, Taylor 2-2-6, Scott 8-4-23, Wylie 0-3-3, Riggins 2-0-4, Roundtree 1-2-4.
Half: Imhotep 25, University School 15. 3-point goals: Barnes 3; Scott 3, Wesley 2, Knox.