Imhotep Charter was playing for itself, but by downing the nation’s No. 2 team Oak Hill in a tournament semifinal, it saved the Culligan City of Palms Classic a potential championship game headache.
If Oak Hill had beaten Imhotep, ranked No. 20 in the USA TODAY Super 25, and Mountain Brook, a public high school from Alabama, were to beat McEachern, Georgia, in their semifinal, the last two teams standings could not have played.
Due to Alabama High School Athletic Association bylaws, members of the AHSAA are not permitted to play teams that are not members of a state athletic association. Oak Hill, a small boarding school with an enrollment of 150, is not a member in Virginia.
But a dominating performance by the team from Philadelphia made the issue moot.
“That’s not the plan that we had,” Imhotep coach Andre Noble said of helping out the tournament. “We planned to win the day. And that’s the other thing. Some folks back home would be like, go shock the world. We be like, ‘shock the world? That’s not shocking the world.’ We think we’re a really good basketball team and we feel when we play with our defensive intensity, we can play with any team in the country.”
Tournament vice present Donnie Wilkie, who has been part of the Classic since 1985, said the tournament bracket was set up the best it could to avoid these conflicts.
But Mountain Brook pulled off a stunner on Thursday night by upsetting USA Today Super 25 No. 2 ranked IMG Academy in the quarterfinals. Then McEachern also pulled an upset of defending champion and No. 4 ranked Fort Lauderdale University School, setting up a semifinal underdog showdown with the winner potentially facing Oak Hill Academy on Saturday in the final.
The tournament could still run into an issue in the third-place game if Mountain Brook were to lose, but there’s already a solution for that. IMG would replace Mountain Brook to face Oak Hill and Mountain Brook would slide into IMG’s spot to face Paul VI.
Mountain Brook coach Bucky McMillan declined to comment before his game.
“According to AHSAA policy, Mountain Brook informed the tournament committee, before attending the event, that (it) could not and would not play Oak Hill Academy,” Jamie Lee, who oversees basketball for the Alabama association, wrote in an email. “I can not comment on possible penalties if a violation occurs.”
The City of Palms was almost in a no-win situation as Georgia had the same bylaw as Alabama. Georgia High School Association Executive Director Robin Hines said that rule was rescinded last year for basketball.
“It only applies to football,” Hines said. “As long as the tournament was sanctioned by the GHSA there should be no problem.”
The City of Palms is sanctioned by Georgia.