By Napoleon F. Kingcade
Once again, this year the Imhotep Charter Lady Panthers and the Mastery North Pumas had the best girls’ basketball teams in the Philadelphia Public League. Imhotep Charter defeated Mastery North Charter, 55-47. The same two teams have played each other in the Public League title game for the last five years. Both teams had players who excelled at last week’s Public League All-Star Classic.
The best female players gathered at Universal Audenried Charter High School to display their talents. This year, fans were treated to a doubleheader for only $5.00 at the door and got more than they bargained for — some great basketball action.
The exciting second game in the doubleheader featured Imhotep Charter 5-10 senior guard Janai “Star” Smith, who scored 36 points. Smith scored 13 points and ripped down 10 rebounds. She helped push the Gray team against a tough defense by the Blue team.
At the end of the third quarter, the Gray team was leading the game, 38-22. By then, Smith had scored 24 points for the Gray Team and in the fourth quarter, she scored 12 more points. The Blue Team had only allowed 6 points in the final quarter.
Unfortunately, they came up short. The Blue team lost the game, 54-40. Smith was the game’s top scorer with 36 points and was named the team’s most valuable player. Penn Treaty senior guard Salonte Franklin scored 13 points for the Blue Team and was named her team’s most valuable player.
Next year, Smith will be attending college and playing basketball at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. In 2021, she had a great season for Imhotep Charter, she was named the Philadelphia Public League Player of the Year. While at Imhotep Charter, Smith helped lead her team to back-to-back Public League titles. Both times, her team defeated Mastery North in the Public League championship game.
In the first game of the doubleheader, Tasia Anderson, a junior guard for Mastery North, helped push the Black Team against a talented Orange Team. In the game, Anderson scored 13 points for the Black team while her teammate Shayla Smith, of Audenried, scored 14 points. The Black Team led most of the game, but the Orange Team kept fighting back. However, at the end of the game, the Black Team defeated the Orange Team by a score of 64-62. Anderson was named the Most Valuable Player for the Black team. Audenried Charter’s Aniyah Howard was named her team’s Most Valuable Player.
At this year’s Public League All-Star Classic, the event was run by Audenried girls’ basketball coach Kevin Slaughter. Also, with the help of Audenried Athletic Director Kenyatta Bey, this year’s girls’ basketball classic was a great success, as the fans enjoyed the exciting basketball doubleheader.
“I think both games were a success,” Slaughter said. “Right now, I want to try to keep the Public League Girls All-Star game tradition alive. I want to help keep it alive and tell stories about the history of the Public League All-Star game. I want to do it for the up and coming kids who get to play in the All-Star game.”
This year, the Public League All-Star Classic was announced by myself. I have been their announcer for the games five times. It is a great honor.
Since I have been announcing the All-Star games, I have met a lot of exciting players over the years. I started announcing the Public League Girls All-Star game back in 1984 when former William Penn High girls’ basketball coach Alison Eachus was the organizer of the games. Mrs. Eachus brought me aboard after I served as the basketball announcer at Germantown High School. During that time, I was also a basketball announcer for the Sonny Hill Basketball League.
Also, working the table at this year’s Public League All-Star game was Greg Davis, who does the scorebook for the Public League and keeps all stats of the players. Over the years, he has done the scorebook for many teams in the Public League. Davis also serves on the Public League game committee.
In the second game of this year’s doubleheader, referee Michelle Wilmore worked at the scoring table. She ran the game clock and the scoreboard. She also helped out at the table after she served as a referee in the first game.
Next year, the Public League All-Star Classic will be played at a different location. Right now, there are plans to make it even more exciting for basketball fans to watch.
Former John Bartram High girls basketball coach Joe Garrett, who helped the run the Public League Girls All-Star Classic from 2014 to 2016, feels that girls basketball in Philly is becoming more popular than ever before.
“Because girls’ basketball is still going strong in Philly, I tip my hat to those coaches who are still developing these girls, but I also feel there are coaches who should still be developing more time into the girls during the summertime,” Garrett said. “There are people like Lurline Jones, who dedicated herself over the years to girls’ basketball. She’s the one who kept girls’ basketball going in Philly. Today, I would like to give thanks to Mrs. Jones for all the work she did for girls’ basketball.”
Over the years, the Philadelphia Public League have produced many talented female players who had great basketball careers in college and the WNBA. The list includes Dobbins Tech’s Dawn Staley, Prep Charter’s Kahleah Copper, University City’s Yolanda Laney, Dobbins Tech’s Linda Page, West Philadelphia’s Linda Hester, Freire Charter’s Chelsea Woods, Imhotep Charter’s Deja Reynolds and West Philadelphia’s Jadeane Daye. There’s no better reason to keep the Philadelphia Public League Girls All-Star Classic going than these outstanding players.