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Maluk-Less Imani Christian Academy Erases Fourth-Quarter Deficit, Takes Down Central Catholic



Two eight-win teams met center stage in The Challenge Saturday evening at Alderdice High School as 1A Imani Christian Academy rallied after being down eight points in the fourth quarter to beat 6A Central Catholic, 71-66. 

Imani Christian Academy found a way to limit scorching-hot Dante Depante – who finished with 29 points for Central Catholic – late in the game and forced Depante to foul out to overcome the deficit.

All of it came without one of the best players in the nation in the class of 2025, Alier Maluk who was out with an injury. 

Saints’ head coach Omar Foster was proud of his team and their resiliency to close out a highly contested matchup.

“I know these kids will keep fighting all the way to the end and that’s the culture we are building,” Foster said. “Central Catholic is a really good team, and it was tough to fight back, but we were very resilient today.”

After a cold start to the game for Central Catholic, the Vikings started to roll in the second quarter as Depante caught fire. For the majority of the contest, Depante imposed his will as he carved his way through the defense. Depante finished the first half with a buzzer-beater to send Central Catholic into the locker room with a two-point advantage.

Depante continued his brilliance in the second half, but it was sophomore RJ Sledge for Imani Christian Academy who locked in on the 6-foot-3 senior. Sledge applied pressure late in the fourth quarter and was a nightmare defensively for Depante and helped erase the eight-point deficit.

“I got him at the end and fouled him out,” Sledge said.

Led by Sledge, Imani Christian Academy’s defense bent but didn’t break as they forced several turnovers that led to points at the other end.

“Early in the season we were losing those games,” Sledge said. “We locked up on defense the last two minutes.”

Foster acknowledged his team’s ability to adjust as the game went along and to clamp down on defense.

“We know the last three minutes of the game we have to be really really tight,” Foster said. “The last three minutes is when you got to buckle down, get every rebound and dive on the floor.”

Along with Sledge’s defense, he finished with 19 points to lead the Saints on the night. Sledge’s drive to the hoop was on display late making several impressive buckets including a fast break that gave the Saints the 67-66 lead they needed.

“RJ had a great game once again and he’s been playing really solid,” Foster said.

Outside of Sledge, Imani Christan Academy had four other players who factored in with double-digit performances including 6-foot-8 forward Virgil Hall and guard Nate Brazil who finished with 13 points apiece.

Alier Maluk misses game with injury

One of the most-touted players in the class of 2025, Alier Maluk, was out for Imani Christian Academy Saturday night with a heel injury.

“He’s still growing so he’s having tendonitis in his heel,” Foster said. “We want to rest him and get him fully healthy because we’ll need him down the stretch for the playoffs.”

According to Rivals, Maluk is a five-star prospect and ranks 16th nationally in the class.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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