Reading High earns commanding victory over Muhlenberg in Berks boys basketball semifinal

Feb. 15—Reading High coach Francis Camara has said that one of the hallmarks of the Red Knights boys basketball team is the ability for any member of the squad to step up with a big performance at any time.

And on Wednesday night against a neighboring rival in a Berks Boys Basketball Conference semifinal, senior Malik Osumanu made his presence known to help No. 2 seed Reading High earn a 69-47 win over No. 6 seed Muhlenberg at Santander Arena.

With the win, the Red Knights (17-7) will face Wilson (16-8) in the final on Friday at 8 p.m. at Santander Arena. The fourth-seeded Bulldogs defeated top-seeded Berks Catholic 59-46 in the earlier semifinal on Wednesday night.

Reading High will be going for its third straight Berks championship, while Wilson will be going for its first since defeating the Red Knights 55-53 in 2021.

"I feel like it was a great win for us," Osumanu said. "Especially since we beat them last time, (an 83-46 win last Tuesday to claim the Berks I title). I feel like we did a good job not letting them get into this game."

Osumanu got it done at both ends of the floor, as the center recorded a career-high 18 points and also had six blocks to help stifle a Muhls' offense that was averaging 63 points per game heading into the game.

"Guys got beat off the dribble and guess who was there to come over and help block the shot — Malik," Camara said. "He's done it multiple times all season long. He's the unsung hero and he doesn't get talked about enough. Malik Osumanu is the man.

"He's the best kid to coach. He's a great leader. He's a great kid in the classroom. He's a great kid in the community and he's always doing the right things. He was on the court doing the right things today and we're going to continue to ride that momentum and follow his leadership."

Osumanu scored 14 points in the first half to help his team establish a 35-23 lead at the half.

Trailing 16-9 at the start of the second, Muhlenberg (14-9) went on a 11-2 run to take a 20-18 lead before Reading High's defense began to take over with 3:57 left in the first half.

The Red Knights forced the Muhls into three turnovers and Muhlenberg committed a technical foul as Reading High went on a 17-3 run to close out the first half.

Freshman Jeremiah Camara, who scored a game-high 20 points for the Red Knights, scored seven points during the second quarter and Osumanu had eight to help Reading High regain momentum. The Red Knights went 8-for-8 from the foul line in the second and were 20-for-26 overall.

"I think that was us keeping our composure and them getting tired because it was a back and forth game," Osumanu said about the scoring surge late in the second quarter. "I don't even know what happened myself. I feel like there was just a switch; we just started running it.

"We take big pride in our defense. Defense is our number one priority. Even when our offense was shaky at the beginning, we tried to rely on our defense and I feel like that was one of the big keys to this one."

Reading High's defense continued to stay sound in the second half as the Muhls failed to get within ten points of the lead at any point over the final 16 minutes.

Jeremiah Camara scored 11 points in the second half for the Red Knights. Berks County's leading scorer, Reading High senior Yadiel Cruz, finished the game with 15 points and a team-high seven blocks.

Junior Shermar Killen scored a team-high 15 points for Muhlenberg, with 10 coming in the second half.

According to Muhls coach Matt Flowers, a lack of composure when the game was close in the second quarter proved to be too much from which to recover.

"We were right there and then our composure fell apart," Flowers said. "We've been talking about composure and in these types of games you have to stay composed and right now we weren't composed.

"We were off and then we started turning the ball over and we didn't share the ball. It just didn't work out for us today."

On the opposite side, a focus on composure and defensive prowess have been key for the Red Knights, who have been surging as of late according to Francis Camara. Reading High has won 10 of its last 12 games and is currently riding a seven-game winning streak.

The Red Knights have held five of their last six opponents under 50 points and have won three of those games by 30 points or more.

"I believe that (second quarter run) was fueled by our defense," Francis Camara said. "Once we picked up our defense, man, we started to play much better. We got about three stops in a row and we were able to capitalize off that and we play so much better when we are in transition.

"We have been picking up our defense... We're starting to play playoff defense and that's what we need."