PIAA BASKETBALL: Imhotep sensation Edwards dazzles in win over Abington Heights

Mar. 18—EASTON — Imhotep Charter star Justin Edwards patiently and graciously stopped for photos with a steady stream of youngsters and adults as the song "Closing Time" by Semisonic echoed through the Easton Middle School gymnasium.

Both teams had returned to their locker rooms, but Edwards stayed courtside and received well-deserved adulation from the audience that gathered and left impressed.

As advertised, one of the best high school players in the country, who is headed to Kentucky, put on a show. The slick 6-foot-7 guard scored 31 points on 13-of-17 shooting and had five rebounds, four steals, four blocked shots and one highlight reel windmill dunk over a defender.

His athleticism and speed overmatched Abington Heights in a 65-38 win by the Panthers in the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals Friday night.

"That's pretty cool," Edwards said of the postgame photos. "It happens every game. That means a lot to me. Coming from Philly and not really having much growing up, it's cool to come to these places where everyone knows me.

"This was a good win. They are a good team, and we knew they were one that we needed to worry about to get to where we want to go."

District 12 champion Imhotep Charter (28-3), ranked No. 6 nationally by Maxpreps.com, advanced to the semifinals where it will face Archbishop Ryan (17-10), the runner-up from District 12, which beat previously undefeated Radnor, 69-65. The Panthers defeated Archbishop Ryan, 69-58, on March 2.

Abington Heights, the District 2 Class 5A champion, finished the season 23-5.

"It isn't the outcome we wanted," Abington Heights junior guard Will Marion said. "They are obviously a very good team with a lot of talent. Our shots weren't falling. That happens."

While Imhotep dominated the game with size, strength, speed and a heavy dose of Edwards, Abington Heights did come out swinging like a heavy underdog with nothing to lose.

Marion, Robby Lucas, Patrick Walsh and Ryan Nealon each drained a 3-pointer in the first quarter, and the Comets held leads of 6-3 and 9-5 before four straight points, including a two-handed slam off an assist from Rahmir Barno, put Imhotep up, 12-9. The Panthers closed the quarter with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Zaahir Muhammad-Gray for an 18-15 lead.

"We were shooting every open shot we got with confidence," said Marion, who finished with five points. "Our coaches did a good job, and we only had one day to prepare for them. We did the best we could."

Abington Heights made 4 of 9 3-pointers in the first quarter. However, the Comets' inability to get any space for shots inside forced them to settle for mostly 3-pointers through three quarters, and they missed 11 straight attempts.

Imhotep's press forced chaotic offensive sequences for the Comets, who finished with 12 turnovers in the first half and eight in the second quarter. The Panthers limited Abington Heights to only a Mason Fedor layup and built a 32-16 lead as Edwards scored six points and Barno had four.

After a Fedor layup in the third, Imhotep went on a 22-4 tear over the next 4:57. Ahmad Nowell drilled a pair of 3-pointers, and Edwards really picked up the pace. He had eight points, which included a pair of power moves to the basket, a steal that concluded with his left-handed power dunk that brought the fans to their feet and started the running clock, and added a 3-pointer as the Panthers put the game away with a 56-22 lead.

"They have great players, Division I players," said Lucas, who finished with seven points. "It leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth that they were able to overpower us. That gives us something to work on for next year. We hit shots early, which allowed us to stick around, but we couldn't get rebounds the whole game, and they just took over the game."

Abington Heights freshman Jordan Shaffer came off the bench as both teams mostly played reserves in the final quarter and had eight points with two 3-pointers. Nealon also had a 3-pointer to finish with six points, Fedor hit three free throws to finish with seven points, while also contributing six rebounds and four assists, and Zach Brister scored on a layup as the Comets outscored Imhotep, 16-9.

"We need to get ready for next season," Marion said. "We have to get to work to make it farther than we did this year."

Imhotep 65, Abington Heights 38

Imhotep (28-3) — J. Edwards 13 3-3 31, A. Nowell 3 2-2 11, R. Barno 2 1-2 6, Z. Muhammad Gray 1 3-4 6, B. Saunders 2 0-0 4, M. Muhammad 1 0-0 3, Y. Satterfield 1 0-0 3, M. Taylor 0 1-2 1, M. Myatt 0 0-0 0, C. Henderson 0 0-0 0, D. Carter 0 0-0 0, A. Hunter 0 0-0 0, R. Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 10-13 65.

Abington Heights (23-5) — J. Shaffer 2 2-2 8, M. Fedor 2 3-4 7, R. Lucas 2 2-2 7, R. Nealon 2 0-0 6, W. Marion 2 0-0 5, P. Walsh 1 0-0 3, Z. Brister 1 0-1 2, R. Cutrufello 0 0-0 0, L. Anderson 0 0-0 0, E. Curtin 0 0-0 0, J. Petriello 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 7-9 38.

Imhotep 18 14 24 9 — 65

Abington Heights 14 2 6 16 — 38

3-point goals: J. Edwards (IIC) 2, A. Nowell (IIC) 2, R. Barno (IIC), M. Muhammad (IIC), Z. Muhammad Gray (IIC), Y. Satterfield (IIC), R. Nealon (AH) 2, J. Shaffer (AH) 2, R. Lucas (AH), P. Walsh (AH), W. Marion (AH).

Contact the writer: jbfawcett@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125; @sportsTT on Twitter