Parish Takes Home First Basketball Title

By Mike Waters / Contributor

Parish Episcopal put an exclamation point on a remarkable, and historical, season with the school’s first TAPPS state championship.

The Panthers topped district rival Plano John Paul II 46-42 on Saturday in Waco to complete an underdog run to the title in just its second state tournament appearance.

Parish led 13-11 after the first period and 26-22 at intermission. The Panthers took a 34-31 advantage after three quarters, thanks to a putback basket by senior Harris Dar at the buzzer to end the period.

However, Richmond signee Bryson McGlothlin ignited an 8-0 John Paul II run to open the final stanza that left Parish trailing 39-34.

The Panthers (27-9) and their young roster did not panic. Antoine Almuttar scored six straight points — including two free throws with 1:35 remaining as Parish regained a 40-39 lead for Parish.

Cameron Marks, who tossed in 33 points for JPII during a semifinal win over San Antonio Antonian, answered with another trey to give the Cardinals (27-11) a 42-40 edge.

Armon Almuttar, Antoine’s twin brother, hit a close-range basket to tie the score 42-42 with 51 seconds left, and hit the go-ahead layup (on an assist from Torrey Mitchell) with just six ticks on the clock for a two-point lead.

After a JPII turnover, Sawyer Batz sealed the win by knocking down two free throws, igniting the celebration for Parish.

“These guys play with each other and for each other,” said Parish head coach Ahmad Ajami. “They are gonna remember this experience the rest of their lives.”

Four years ago, winning a championship seemed like a dream, before Ajami came in and changed the team culture. “To see how far this program has come is just incredible,” he said.

In the 2020-21 season, Ajami’s first as Parish head coach, the Panthers finished the year on a 14-game skid. The next year produced an 18-11 overall mark, but no district victories. Parish took another step last year, with four district wins and 22 overall, qualifying for the playoffs.

Dar, the only returning starter from a year ago, paced the Panthers with 14 points in the championship game.

“To see how far this program has come since my freshman year, it is unbelievable,” said Dar, who surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this season. “Stuck with the program.  This team knows how to compete.  This is just so amazing to finish my career here like this.”

Antoine and Armon Almuttar, finished with 12 and eight points, respectively, and combined for the 10 of the team’s 12 points in the decisive fourth period.

Batz scored a team-high 14 points during a semifinal win over Plano Prestonwood. Parish avenged regular-season losses in both games at the state tournament.

JPII was more experienced at state, having made nine appearances and claiming two titles, most recently in 2022. Dar, Batz, and Armon Almuttar were selected to the 10-player all-tournament team for the Panthers.

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