Jamil Manigo knew things were different when practice started his sophomore season.
This was three years ago, in Bishop McDevitt’s first season under coach Will Chavis. The Lancers’ workouts emphasized three things: defense, defense and more defense.
“We did the defensive drills first,” Manigo said. “If you weren’t playing defense, you weren’t playing on the court.”
Now a senior, Manigo has been part of Bishop McDevitt’s remarkable resurgence. He scored his 1,000th point last Sunday in a statement victory over Neumann Goretti, which at the time was undefeated in Philadelphia Catholic League play and No. 1 in the Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania rankings.
On Friday night, the 6-foot-4 Manigo scored Bishop McDevitt’s final six points in a 47-45 victory over Bonner-Prendergast in a Philadelphia Catholic League clash of Top 10 teams.
But Manigo and Chavis both said it was the Lancers’ work at the defensive end that made the difference in a taut battle before a loud, near-capacity crowd in the Friars’ Frederico Gymnasium.
“This was a playoff game,” Chavis said. “That was a really tough, gritty, hard-fought battle.”
The victory was the ninth in a row for No. 7 Bishop McDevitt (15-6 overall, 11-2 PCL) and secured a top four seed for the Lancers’ in the PCL playoffs.
That’s good for a first-round bye, and a home game Friday for the right to advance to the Palestra for the Feb. 19 semifinals.
Senior guard Robert Smith added 14 points, including five in the fourth quarter, for Bishop McDevitt, which closes the regular season Sunday vs. Roman Catholic at Cristo Rey.
Senior guard Tyreese Watson scored 14 with six assists and junior guard Malik Edwards added 14 points with six rebounds for No. 6 Bonner-Prendergast (16-4, 10-3), which remains in contention for a top four seed with a regular-season finale at home Sunday vs. Lancaster Catholic.
“They are such a good team,” Chavis said of Bonner, which played without standout senior guard Donovan Rodriguez (undisclosed). “They play defense, they move the ball.”
Bonner started fast as Edwards scored 10 and Watson dished three assists as the Friars broke to an 18-14 lead after one quarter. But over the final 24 minutes, Bishop McDevitt’s defense held the home team to just 27 points.
“It became winning time,” Chavis said. “Winning time, you have to play smart, you have to play together, we have to play aggressive.”
Buckets were expensive buys at both ends. This was two tough teams battling through every possession, pressuring every dribble, contesting every pass, challenging every shot.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming in here,” Manigo said. “Crowd yelling at us.”
Watson’s foul-line jumper off the move gave Bonner a 42-39 lead with 4 minutes, 44 seconds on the clock.
But Smith scored on a runner to cut the margin to one and then Manigo took over. The burly center made a driving layup for a 43-42 lead at the 2:20 mark, and converted a nice feed from Ahmir Harris for another layup and a 45-42 lead at the :22 mark.
At :08, Manigo made two free throws for a 47-42 lead, allowing the Lancers to survive a deep three-pointer by Watson.
“We needed to make our free throws and play defense,” Manigo said of the keys to the victory.
An undersized center, Manigo has drawn recruiting interest from NCAA Division II programs such as West Chester and Kutztown.
“Jamil and all the kids in that locker room, they literally changed the program around by buying in and believing in what we’re trying to teach,” Chavis said. “He plays within himself. He’s sneaky athletic because of his frame.
“He doesn’t pass the eye test as far as Division I, but he’s going to be a hell of a player wherever he goes.”
Bishop McDevitt 14 10 10 13 – 47
Bonner-Prendergast 18 8 8 11 – 45
BM: Robert Smith 14, Shamir Mosley 9, Jamil Manigo 16, Kevin Young 1, Alassane Amadou 2, Ahmir Harris 3, Glenn Smith 2