Friends' Central came in trying to win its second straight Friends Schools League boys' basketball championship. Academy of the New Church was seeking its fourth title in five seasons.
Friday night, in a rematch of the 2009 final won by ANC, the Phoenix turned the tables on the Lions and retained their crown with a thrilling 52-48 victory before a packed house at Haverford College.
With Friends' Central clinging to 49-48 lead, 6-foot-8 junior Amile Jefferson followed home a one-and-one miss by Karonn Davis. From there, ANC's Marcus Gilbert missed a three-point try and Jefferson sealed matters by hitting the second of two free throws with 1.4 seconds to go.
Devin Coleman paced the Phoenix with 17 points and six rebounds. Malique Killing drained three three-pointers en route to 13 points, and Jefferson, who missed five minutes of the second half after picking up his fourth foul, collected 12 points, eight boards, and two blocks.
For the Lions, who nearly pulled off another improbable comeback, Gilbert netted 18 points, including three treys and a follow dunk, and two blocks. Savon Goodman and Rakeem Christmas (12 rebounds) were held to a combined 13 points.
Friends' Central, ranked No. 1 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, improved to 20-4 overall. No. 7 ANC slipped to 20-5.
Last year, the Phoenix downed Westtown, 58-45, to earn their first crown since the 2001-02 campaign.
Down by 44-37 in the fourth quarter, the Lions rallied, as they had done in Wednesday's semifinal triumph over Abington Friends, and forged a 47-47 tie when Jonathan Riles buried a trey with 2 minutes, 55 seconds remaining.
Ahead by 27-24 early in the second half, Friends' Central put together a 13-2 spurt, started with Jefferson's reverse layup and finished with Coleman's left-baseline trey, to make it 40-26.
Earlier, an inside bucket by Jefferson and a three-pointer from up top by Killing gave the Phoenix a 12-9 advantage after one quarter.
Friends' Central pushed its lead to 20-13 in the second frame. Down by 22-16, the Lions closed the halftime gap to two (24-22) on a coast-to-coast bucket by Goodman, a lane shot by Christmas, and a runner from Riles.
ANC was 2 for 8 from three-point land in the first half, with Riles and Gilbert, a sixth man, accounting for the treys. In the opening 16 minutes, the Lions were 9 for 24 from the field.
For the Phoenix, Killing hit a pair of first-quarter treys. He and Jefferson each scored seven points before the break, while Coleman had six.
In the teams' regular-season meeting, Friends' Central prevailed, 47-35, behind 19 points from Coleman and 12 from Jefferson.
ANC lost for the first time since a 71-63 defeat against South Kent (Conn.) in the Kobe Bryant/Philly.com/Rally Classic on Jan. 22 at Malvern Prep.
Next for both teams is the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Tournament. Friends' Central, as the No. 1 seed, has a first-round bye. ANC, seeded No. 7, will host No. 15 Penn Charter at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Acad. New Church 9 13 10 16 – 48
Friends' Central 12 12 16 12 – 52
ANC: Jonathan Riles 8, Dinjiyl Walker 7, Malcolm Gilbert 2, Rakeem Christmas 7, Savon Goodman 6, Marcus Gilbert 18.
FC: Malique Killing 13, Karonn Davis 6, Devin Coleman 17, Amile Jefferson 12, Conrad Chambers 4.