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Imani Christian Repeats as WPIAL 1A Champions with Win Over The Neighborhood Academy



PITTSBURGH — On Thursday night, Imani Christian took down The Neighborhood Academy in the WPIAL 1A Championship game in front of a lively crowd at the Petersen Events Center.

With the win, the Saints earned their second-straight class A title, this time under first-year head coach Khayree Wilson.

The Bulldogs opened the scoring with a three pointer from Kedron Gilmore. Yale recruit Courtney Wallace Jr. paced The Neighborhood Academy early on, but after a few minutes of action, Imani climbed back in behind strong play from RJ Sledge, Nate Brazil and company. At the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs led Imani, 15-11. However, the Saints would not trail for long.

“We just spaced them out and let our guards go ahead and play and have fun,” Wilson said about the second-quarter improvement. “That’s ultimately what you guys seen. Once the ball goes through the basket, that energizes us on the other side as well. We strap in. We’ve played probably four top-25 teams that have been ranked this year, we’ve been in national tournaments, we’ve held national teams to shot-clock violations whenever we left out of here. So, we know we can defend if we just lock in and do what we’re supposed to do. We had to let the nerves settle in.”

In the second quarter, Imani pulled away with an early 13-2 run. Sledge continued to shine, dishing out two assists, scoring from inside and out, and leading his team. He finished the half as the team’s top scorer, going 4 for 7 from the field for 11 points.

While Imani pulled in front, The Neighborhood Academy began to turn the ball over more and more. Wallace turned the ball over nine times in the first half, while the team turned the ball over 18 times total. Gilmore added five more points in the half after his game-opening three pointer, going into the break with eight points. However, after Imani’s huge run, the Saints led 44-26.

In the second half, Imani’s Avery Wesley continued the team’s strong play with back-to-back three pointers, extending the lead all the way up to 25 with six minutes to play in the quarter. Wallace replied for the bulldogs with an and-one, converting the three-point play, but aside from Wallace’s scoring, the Bulldogs struggled to earn production from elsewhere.

Brazil and the Saints continued to roll into the fourth quarter, as he hit a three pointer to extend Imani’s lead up to 72-35. In the final minutes, Imani closed out the win, 78-49. Players, coaches, and fans of the Saints immediately cheered in celebration of their team’s accomplishment.

Brazil led the Saints with 17 points, while Wesley added 16 points and eight rebounds in the title victory. In addition, Sledge added 16 points to go along with his five rebounds and four assists. As a team, the Saints hit 27 of their 53 shot attempts and forced 26 turnovers by the Bulldogs.

For the Bulldogs, Wallace led the way with 28 points and nine rebounds in a strong effort. He hit 10 of his 21 field-goal tries, and drained two of his four three pointers in the win. Aside from Wallace, the Bulldogs earned nine points from Gilmore and five more from Shamar Simpson.

“One of the things that we say is, ‘run, run, run, play for your brother, and have fun,’ and that’s exactly what we did. That is the staple of who we are when you say Saints WAO. I know a lot of people don’t know what that means, but that’s ‘we are one’ and that is something that has been instilled in these kids and anybody who comes to Imani. We are one. Saints Wao. We don’t forget that, and we don’t lose sight of that, ever.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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