A New Philly-NY Rivalry
Villa Holiday Classic pits top NYC high schools against Philly’s best.
by Doobie Okon
For the fourth year in a row on Sunday, the city of Philadelphia played host to the Villa Holiday Classic which showcases eight talented high school basketball squads from Philly and New York City. I was instantly thrilled when I got the call to cover this tournament, as much of my Philadelphia pride stems from a deep seeded hatred of New York sports. What a great idea to bring this big city rivalry to high school basketball and to such a legendary venue in the Palestra. Didn’t hurt to have Diggy Simmons and Tyga scheduled to perform during the tourney, either.
Due to an earlier commitment, I only was able to arrive as the second of the four games began. But, when I finally made my way into the ‘Cathedral of College Ball,’ the Palestra was packed watching these hard-nosed teenagers go at it.
I must say I was a tad surprised at such an impressive turn-out, which later was affirmed as the PA announcer told me that the 3rd Villa Classic only drew about 2,500 people last year at St. Joe’s. The Palestra holds upwards of 8,000 seats, and there weren’t that many empty ones when I arrived, so hopefully this great annual tournament only continues to grow in fans and reputation. Major props to the Villa staff, and co-sponsors Nike and 100.3 The Beat, who clearly worked their tails off to make this Classic a big deal in 2011.
Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn) vs. Murrell Dobbins Tech (Philly)
‘They see the Young guna, all the girlie, girlies, wanna see the Young guna, once they see the Roc-a-wearrr’
It’s a shame I came late, because not only did I apparently miss a great first game, Philly’s own Young Chris of the Young Gunz performed at halftime. At least Chris stuck around to watch the second game when I arrived, but New York had already taken the first battle as Bishop Loughlin beat Dobbins Tech, 63-54.
MVP Jerrell Wright, 6-8 senior forward for Dobbins, had a huge game with 19 points and 16 boards. Wright, a La Salle commit, however wasn’t enough to overcome Bishop Loughlin, who had four players in double figures, led by MVP Joel Angus (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Tyleik Kimbraugh (13 points, 6 steals)
New York 1, Philly 0.
Quick funny side-note: It’s weird enough that I am currently watching “Guru of Go,” one of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries, as I write this. It tells the story of Philadelphia’s own Paul Westhead and his coaching carousel which took its longest pit stop at Loyola Marymount University. If you know about LMU, then you certainly know about the late Hank Gathers, who collapsed and died during a game on March 4, 1990. Gathers, along with fellow LMU star Bo Kimble, both attended…you guessed it…Murrell Dobbins Tech. I didn’t know that until this very moment.
Boys & Girls (Brooklyn) vs. Imhotep Charter (Philly)
Boys & Girls kept Imhotep at arm’s length the entire game as Imhotep was unable to really get within six points for most of the game. But, at the end of the third quarter, Imhotep’s Earl Brown took a pass inside and threw down a huge dunk in-between two defenders. The Palestra exploded and was still buzzing only to see Brown intercept a pass at half court and throw down another powerful slam a couple possessions later to bring Imhotep within one.
The two squads were tight the entire fourth quarter, and Imhotep finally took their first lead, 57-56, when Ameen Tankley had a great steal and pass to Terrell Johnson for an easy lay-up with 1:30 remaining. Tankley would later hit two free throws with only 10 seconds remaining to give Imhotep a 61-60 lead and had the Palestra rocking. But Boys & Girls’ Leroy Fludd got loose along the side of the court after a long inbound pass and finished with an easy lay-up as time expired. Boys & Girls won, 62-61. The fact that Imhotep allowed him to get so free was shocking as Fludd was the clear MVP for Boys & Girls with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks and used his big frame to control the paint the entire game. Johnson, Imhotep’s starting point guard, took home MVP honors for his squad with 12 points and five assists.
New York 2, Philly 0.