CONSHOHOCKEN >> Every seat was taken and there was no place left to stand at the Fellowship House of Conshohocken for the Donofrio Classic semifinals Monday night.
Nobody left disappointed after watching the first game.
Koby Thomas gave Team Philly the lead for good with less than 40 seconds left to lift them to a 108-102 win over Just Clean It.
The Imhotep senior and Robert Morris commit broke a 102-102 tie and then made two free throws to extend the lead to four with 15.5 seconds left.
In the middle of his four points may be where the game was won.
Mastery Charter North senior and Bowling Green commit Daeqwon Plowden blocked Archbishop Wood senior Matt Cerruti to get Team Philly the ball with the lead in the final 20 seconds.
Thomas scored 18 of his 30 points in the second half.
“He was huge,” Team Philly’s Daron Russell said of Thomas. “A lot of rebounds where it wasn’t in the favor of him and he skied up and got the rebound for us. Koby has been terrific this whole Donofrio run.”
Just Clean It led for most of the first half and Team Philly took its first second-half lead less than two minutes after the break, 63-62.
Just Clean It responded with an 18-6 run to take an 80-69 advantage.
Team Philly came right back. Doane Academy’s Damon Wall scored five points during a 12-0 run that saw them take an 81-80 lead with 9:35 left in the game.
From that point, neither team led by more than three until Thomas put Team Philly up by four in the closing seconds.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Russell said. “When we got down big early we just knew that eventually we were going to get back. It was about what was going to happen in the second half.”
Archbishop Wood senior and Villanova commit Collin Gillespie came alive in the second half. After scoring just six first-half points, the Philadelphia Catholic League MVP scored 18 in the second half, including 10 straight that saw Just Clean It take a 94-91 lead.
Gillespie scored a team-high 24 points and Wood junior Tyree Pickron and Judge’s Marc Rodriguez each had 19.
Russell — a Rhode Island commit and Imhotep senior — scored a game-high 31 points. He did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 23 points to keep Team Philly in striking distance of Just Clean It, 59-55.
“Every time I play basketball I feel like I have something to prove,” the 5-foot-9 point guard said. “Because of my height everyone is going to look over me and just limit me to certain things. I just want to go out there and prove everybody wrong every time.”
Russell was the Philadelphia Public League MVP this year and led Imhotep to a state championship. One thing missing from his trophy case is a Donofrio Classic title. Last year he was on Team Hardnett, which lost the 2016 final to the Old School Cavaliers in triple overtime.
He’ll get his chance to win the title Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of the Raw Sports All Stars and Don Len.
“I haven’t got a Donofrio championship yet,” Russell said. “I’m looking for one (Tuesday).”
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