PHILADELPHIA >> Math, Civics and Science continued its annual run into the PIAA playoffs with a convincing 52-35 victory over Dock Mennonite Academy in a PIAA Class 2A first round matchup at South Philadelphia High School Saturday afternoon.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, the Mighty Elephants, with Coach Dan Jackson at the helm, have had lofty ambitions. After finishing this season 18-9, they would like a chance to return the state final again, where they were upended by Kennedy Catholic 71-60 in the 2016 PIAA Class A finals at Hershey.
Despite losing two of their star players to transfers, Ed Croswell to St Joseph’s Prep and Jaquill Stone to Archbishop Ryan, the Mighty Elephants still boasted having an incredible eight of its players make first, second, or third team All-Philadelphia Public League this season.
Dock Mennonite Academy, which recently upgraded its name from Christopher Dock HS, headed into the playoffs with a 16-10 mark, a remarkable turnaround from the 5-17 posting in 2015-16. Pioneers coach Mike Fergus attributes the improvement to a number of factors. Most prevalent was “stressing a commitment to off-season skill development through shoot-outs, summer camps, and outside leagues”.
The coaching staff also provided experiences where the players could bond together to focus on team unity, as well as making themselves available throughout the school year to further each player’s skill development.
The first quarter started off with Dock going blow-for-blow with MC&S. While Malik Archer and Tymair Johnson were inflicting most of the damage on Dock, Deins Bergis was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring all of Dock’s 11 points, as MC&S clung to a 14-11 advantage.
However, as the second quarter began, MC&S turned up the defensive heat by employing a full-court press and double team traps.
According to Fergus, this was the turning point in the game. Dock was unable to keep up with the speed and quickness of MC&S which led to numerous turnovers and breakaway lay-ups for the Mighty Elephants.
While Fergus acknowledged that most of the mistakes were “self-inflicted”, he also alluded to how difficult it is to prepare during practice for an opponent that has that much athleticism.
In addition to the offensive production of Archer and Johnson, Maqi Watson was a definitive force on the boards for MC&S at both ends of the floor, however Dock’s Nick Schnable more than held his own on the inside for Dock.
Deins Bergis, a transfer student from Latvia, along with some of the other Dock seniors, had to deal with the emotional letdown of playing in his final high school game for the Pioneers.
Bergis, in addition to carrying most of the offensive load for Dock, also did a yeoman’s job in holding the 1st team All-Public meteor, Malik Archer, to 15 points, well below his season average. Bergis, who plans to return to a homecoming in Latvia following graduation, said his college plans are still up in the air.
While MC&S will be moving on to play in the next round of playoffs, Fergus can console himself with the growth his team has shown this year and the continued progress he anticipates for next season. He mentioned underclassmen Nolan Bolton, Jackson Scialanca, and Miz Nyagwegwe, all who had quality minutes against MC&S, and a bumper crop coming up from the JV team that sported an impressive 15-6 mark this past season.