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Dock Mennonite rallies past Sankofa Freedom to claim Dock Holiday Tournament title

Dock Mennonite's Caleb Pfleiger grabs a rebound against Sankofa Freedom in the Dock Holiday Tournament final on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

TOWAMENCIN >> Dock Mennonite absorbed seven charges, kept scrapping defensively, and as coach Mike Fergus put it, “played their tails off” Saturday night, overcoming an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to go storming past highly-ranked Sankofa Freedom.

“Not over yet until the buzzer sounds,” said a smiling Misrahim Nyagwegwe, who scored a team-high 20 points for Dock. “This means a lot. We lost to these guys last year in the championship so we wanted to come out and get this one.”

Nyagwegwe and the surging Pioneers put everything together down the stretch to pull out a 60-56 victory over the Warriors, earning Dock its first Dock Holiday Tournament Championship since 2014.

Dock (4-1) went ahead with under two minutes to play and didn’t relinquish the lead.

“Just staying poised,” Nyagwegwe said of an offense that kept delivering in the final, tense moments, “and when they came to trap, we found the open guy, made the extra pass and got the easy layup.”

Dock Mennonite’s Miz Nyagwegwe scores again against Sankofa Freedom’s tight defense during the Dock Holiday Tournament final on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

 

Dock won its fourth straight behind Nyagwegwe’s 20 points, Darius Ellis’ 12 and Nolan Bolton’s 10. Scialanca had nine points and Ralph Saint-Fleur chipped in with seven.

“This team plays really hard and really together. They play great team basketball. That’s a quality win for us,” said Fergus, whose squad battled past a veteran Sankofa Freedom (7-2) team that reached Class A States last year and cracks the top five in multiple statewide polls this winter.

Scott Spann, tied with Nyagwegwe for the game high with 20 points, had his team up 44-36 entering the fourth quarter.

Back came Dock.

Saint-Fleur scored on a runner down the lane, Nyagwegwe dished it out to Bolton for an open jumper, and Bolton sank a pair of key free throws, bringing Dock to within 50-49.

Key for the Pioneers in the fourth was the inside play of Ellis, a Philly kid himself who was amped up to go against some familiar faces on Saturday night.

“Darius is a sophomore with unlimited potential,” Fergus said of the 6-foot-4 big man.

Dock Mennonite’s Nolan Bolton rises to score against Sankofa Freedom in the Dock Holiday Tournament final on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

Ellis, averaging a double double so far this year, scored eight in the fourth, including a basket down low that tied things at 51 and then a pair of free throws that pushed the Pioneers ahead, 53-51, with 1:59 left.

The Warriors tied it one last time, on two foul shots by Spann.

But Dock took the lead on a free throw and built the margin up to 56-53 when Scialanca found Nyagwegwe dashing to the hoop.

“I’m a little banged up after the first game yesterday,” Nyagwegwe said of the semifinal win over Dobbins (who would win 50-43 over Chester Charter in the the consolation), “but I was definitely in a rhythm.”

Guarding against the three-point shot, Dock played solid defense along the perimeter and ultimately the Warriors had to settle for a pair of free throws by Spann, tightening things to 56-55.

Scialanca notched a pair of foul shots with 11 seconds to go to extend Dock’s lead to 58-55. Sankofa Freedom had one last chance to tie, and with two seconds left, Derrius Ward was fouled, and awarded three free throws.

However, he missed the first, made the second, and then purposely banged the third off the rim to give his team a chance at the rebound. But the Pioneers battled for the loose ball, drew the foul, and Scialanca hit two free throws at the other end to lock things up.

“It was awesome. That was a great win for us. That’s a really good team that we beat,” Fergus said. “I’m really happy for our kids.”

Dock Mennonite’s Darius Ellis was on guard against the Sankofa Freedom offense during the Dock Holiday Tournament final on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

Early on, Sankofa Freedom found its rhythm offensively behind the three-point shooting of Omar Long and Demeetri Glover-Reed, each providing an early push.

Jabril Noble had a pretty reverse layin for the Warriors and then Nyagwegwe answered for Dock at the other end with a strong drive to the basket.

Dock inched closer on another drive by Nyagwegwe, but Sankofa closed out the first quarter when Ward fired a pass to an open Jiair Ballard-West for two, then Ward later connected from three-point range to give the Warriors a 17-12 edge at the end of the first quarter.

The two teams battled back and forth early in the second quarter until Dock drew even on a three by Scialanca.

The Warriors got into foul trouble in the first half, with Dock converting on 11 of 15 free throws.

Spann scored in transition for two of his eight second-quarter points for the Warriors, but Nyagwegwe had a big second-quarter for Dock, hitting from three-point range and scoring eight in all.

Dock Mennonite’s Miz Nyagwegwe rises to the net against Sankofa Freedom during the Dock Holiday Tournament final on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

Nyagwegwe and Spann had their teams deadlocked at 27 apiece at the half.

Sankofa Freedom went up by eight in the third but Dock came through in the fourth.

“This team doesn’t quit,” Fergus said. “Things looked bleak. Nolan fouled out, but some guys came off the bench and really sparked us. Ralph played well for us off the bench, gave us a spark.”

“A good momentum swing,” Nyagwegwe said of the comeback victory and tournament title. “We’ve won four games in a row now so we’re looking pretty good and we feel like we can keep winning.”

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