Lijah Thompson didn't arrive in Philadelphia looking to create a new identity.
But when the Monsignor Bonner sophomore played organized basketball for the first time three years ago it just so happened to coincide with his new locale.
In Chicago, he was Lijah Thompson, the tall kid that doesn't play hoops. And now, he's Lijah Thompson, the budding basketball talent with "limitless potential."
Last night in a Catholic League South Division game full of playoff implications, the 6-foot-7 Thompson showed, at times, how far he's stretched the limits. He also displayed, at times, how his game is sometimes limited - thus far.
At least for a few nights, Thompson can look beyond tomorrow's regular season finale as Bonner kept its postseason hopes very much alive, escaping with a 47-43 win over Archbishop Carroll.
With a victory, the Patriots could have clinched the coveted fourth playoff spot in the South. But now both teams stand at 6-7 in the league, with Bonner (16-9) holding the easier road to postseason heaven. The Friars host 2-10 West Catholic tomorrow, while Carroll (10-14) has to travel to powerhouse Neumann-Goretti.
If both teams finish tied, a play-in game will be held at a neutral gym on Wednesday or Thursday. For now, Bonner is just basking in the beauty of an effective, if ugly, win.
"We were extremely fortunate to get away with this win," said Bonner coach Brian Daly. "I think everybody in this gym knows it."
With Thompson on the pine with four fouls, the Friars trailed, 39-32, with 6 minutes, 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Andre Wilburn (19 points) converted a three-point play.
But Bonner mounted a slow ascent back, until headliner Jeff Jones (18 points) dropped a three-pointer that knotted the score, 43-43, with 2:10 left.
After a Carroll miss, Thompson - who had just reentered - was hacked while shooting. He made both free throws, giving the Friars their first lead, 45-43, since early in the third. Another Carroll miss and a quick foul put the Virginia-bound Jones at the line for a one-and-one.
He missed the front end, and the Patriots again had hope. But Ellis Rogers, who harassed Jones on defense all game, missed a circus shot, and the 6-4 Jones pulled down his eighth rebound. With his next opportunity of bonus free throws, Jones sank both with 10.6 seconds left, and Bonner avenged an early-season loss to Carroll.
Jones, by the way, now stands with 1,867 career points. He has one game, maybe another, to catch Roman Catholic's Reggie Jackson, who owns the CL all-time mark of 1,895.
Thompson, who lives in Southwest Philly, finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. He did standout work inside containing a hobbled Kasheef Festus (11 points, 13 rebounds). The 6-5 Festus suffered a stress fracture last week.
When Thompson, whose first season of organized ball was an eighth grader at Pepper Middle School on 84th and Lyons, tried to defend the perimeter, however, he picked up ticky-tack fouls. Daly can hardly complain about that now.
Archbishop Carroll 9 8 13 13 - 43
Monsignor Bonner7 15 8 17 - 47
AC: Ellis Rogers 9, Lamar Jackson 2, Pete Clancy 2, Kasheef Festus 11, Andre Wilburn 19.
MB: Jeff Jones 18, Lijah Thompson 10, Tim Vanderslice 7, Rob DiNicola 8, Nagbae Saylee 2, John Sheehan 2.