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Defending Class 1A champion Imani Christian rolls past Bishop Carroll boys

Mar. 19—GREENSBURG — Defending PIAA Class 1A champion Imani Christian Academy played like a title-worthy team Monday night.

The Saints used their stellar fast-break offense to jump in front of Bishop Carroll Catholic early, and coasted by the Huskies 98-69 in a semifinal contest at Hempfield Area High School, behind a 48-point performance from Nate Brazil.

"We just couldn't keep up with them," Bishop Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo said. "By the time we scored, they would inbound the ball and be at halfcourt, and then we just never recovered. We saw them play in person, but it's very hard to simulate what they do (in practice)."

Imani Christian Academy will look to claim its second consecutive PIAA crown against District 5 champion Berlin Brothersvalley, a 77-65 winner over Linville Hill Academy, in the title tilt at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey. The back-to-back District 7 champion Saints (18-10) claimed 2023's state championship with a 17-point victory over the same Mountaineers squad.

Bishop Carroll closed an 18-11 campaign.

"It was rough at the beginning of the year," Huskies senior Luke Repko said. "Our record wasn't that great, but we knew if we dug in deep, we could get to where we are now. It's a shame we didn't make it to the finals, but I'm really proud we got to where we are."

The Saints scored the game's first six points, and after the Huskies answered with a 3-pointer, Imani Christian closed the first quarter on a 23-4 run to hold a 22-point advantage after one.

Bishop Carroll kept itself in the game by knocking down six of its 12 3-pointers in the second and even outscored Imani Christian 26-25 during the frame.

"We knew (Bishop Carroll) could shoot the ball very well," said Imani Christian coach Khayree Wilson, whose team will be moving up to Class 6A in 2024-25. "In the first quarter, we held them to seven, then they came out and scored 26 in the second.

"So, ultimately, we went back to the press to try and slow them down from shooting all of those 3s. We watched their game against Neighborhood Academy. They catch, and they shoot it. If they see the slightest bit, they're going to take it. We just wanted to make them dribble as much as possible."

The Huskies closed the gap to 19 points with a layup to begin the third quarter, but got no closer.

Imani Christian forced Bishop Carroll into 17 turnovers that led to the running clock being put into effect near the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

Offensively, the Saints shot 44-for-74 (59%) from the field. Brazil scored 15 points each in the first and third quarters before adding 12 more in the fourth, capping off the game's scoring with a thunderous dunk just before the final buzzer.

Jace Casses topped the Huskies with 25 points, including seven 3-pointers. Repko tallied 22, while Parker Alexander added 12 on four treys.

"I'm really proud of everyone," Repko said. "We couldn't have gotten here without our coaches and everyone working together every day."

Bishop Carroll will be losing three senior starters in Repko, Alexander and Max Oravec, and sixth man Zander Sekerak.

The group led the Huskies to three District 6 championships in their four seasons. This season's squad made the program's fifth final four appearance and first since 2018 after posting a mere 6-14 record in 2022-23.

"You take a look at last year's record, didn't make the playoffs, and then here we are in the final four," Aliquo said. "They put us back on the map. Every one of them. They came to practice and worked hard to get us here. I'm really proud of them."