Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett backed out of a scheduled appearance at Central Philadelphia High School Friday. Instead of making his first appearance in front of a traditional Philadelphia school, Corbett stayed away after protesters appeared.
The basketball team from the school Corbett refused to see appears much tougher.
Making a three-hour trip and playing its third game in three nights, Central played well in all facets and downed Williamsport, 58-42 on its home floor. The Lancers (15-2) won all three games the last three nights and are having one of their best seasons.
Nyric Gosley of Williamsport pushes the ball away from Rafiq Jefferson Saturday at Williamsport.
Someone might want to let Corbett know.
"It says a lot about the kids," Central coach Haviland Harper said. "This is a special place. I've always liked coming here and we played one of our better games this season."
Central did not trail after late in the first quarter and had three players score in double figures while becoming just the second team in seven games to beat Williamsport. Chris Bing (16) and Kahlil Williams (14) were tough inside while guard Greg Holdsman added 12 points and three assists.
Holdsman hit a key basket after Williamsport had cut a 17-point deficit to 10 early in the fourth quarter and Rafiq Jefferson scored six points down the stretch as Central answered Williamsport's burst with one of its own. Instead of wearing down after playing for a third straight night, Central appeared to grow stronger.
"They put pressure on us and we did some silly things but we were able to get calmed down and get some good baskets and pull away," Harper said. "We're having a good year and we just hope we can finish it strong."
Williamsport was dealt a blow Friday when second-leading scorer Maleak Benjamin injured his ankle in gym class. Center Tyler Gardner already was out with a knee injury and the Millionaires (6-6) had just two of their opening day starters in the lineup last night. Penn State-bound Isaiah Washington had a nice game, scoring 23 points and making four steals, but only three players had more than four points.
Coach Allen Taylor was not using the injuries as excuses either. The positive was freshmen like Malik Washington and Stanley Scott received significant minutes. The negative was Williamsport not playing the way it had the last few weeks.
"We had some new faces out there but the system is the same. The players we were using are at the same practices as everyone else," Taylor said. "We needed some people to step up and fill some roles that maybe they weren't ready to fill right now."
Central led 26-17 at halftime and extended the lead to 19 in the third quarter when it hit 10 of its first 11 shots. Many of those were layups, putbacks and high-percentage shots in the paint as Bing and Williams combined for 16 points and hit 8 of 11 shots that quarter.
Williamsport played its best basketball in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, twice cutting the deficit to 10. The Millionaires forced five turnovers in the first two minutes and Jed Chestnut fed Brice Harris (9 points) for a layup that made it 47-37. Washington fed Chesnut for a layup that again made it a 10-point game with 4:43 remaining but Central took control from there, scoring on its next two possessions and never seriously being threatened again.
From a coach's perspective, the fact that Williamsport did not play with the energy it did early in the fourth quarter for the whole game was the most disappointing aspect.
"That was the one thing we talked about, just going out there and playing with some energy and enthusiasm and passion," Taylor said. "Sometimes maybe you're not executing the offense and playing as well as you want to but you have to go out there and play with some heart. I didn't think we were playing with that enthusiasm we played with the other night and it's frustrating that we didn't give the effort I expected."
Brice Harris scored nine points for Williamsport while Nyric Gosley added six points, four steals and three assists. Jed Chestnut had five rebounds and four fourth-quarter points.
The Millionaires travel to Hazleton Thursday and get a feel for what the District 2-4 Class AAAA playoffs will be like. Williamsport is seeking its third straight championship and Hazleton has the best record in the district thus far.
"We have three more days to get these guys in the gym and get these guys more prepared for a very good Hazleton team," Taylor said. "We have to let this one go and go to the next one and just get better."
Philadelphia Central (58)
Gbolahan Alliyu 1 2-2 4, Tyler Jefferson 0 0-0 0, Khyre Bilal 0 0-0 0, Greg Holdsman 5 1-3 12, Derrick Williams 0 1-2 1, Jylel Thompson 1 0-0 3, Rafiq Johnson 3 0-2 6, Chris Bing 8 0-0 16, Kahlil Williams 6 2-2 14, Zach Stone 1 0-1 2. Totals 25 6-12 58.
Nyric Gosley 2 2-4 6, James Earle 0 0-0 0, Stanley Scott 0 0-2 2, Brice Harris 3 0-2 9, James Chestnut 2 0-0 4, Isaiah Washington 8 5-9 23, Nick Manzitti 0 0-0 , Shadale Harman 0 0-0 0, Malik Washington 0 0-0 0, Jamir Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 8-17 42.
PC 11 15 21 11- 58
Williamsport 8 9 13 12- 42
3-point goals: Philly Central (Holdsman, Thompson), Williamsport 4 (Harris 2, I. Washington 2)
Records: Williamsport (6-6); Philadelphia Central (12-2)
Next game: Williamsport at Hazelton (Thu.)