PSA pg 1 3-15-18


The Putnam Science Academy basketball team became national champions last week. Courtesy photos.

When Hamidou Diallo and his cast of high major teammates left the Putnam Science Academy campus last year many expected the Mustangs to take a step back from the national spotlight come the 2017-18 season.
With a younger and less experienced roster people were saying the Mustangs might be a work in progress. Those people were proven wrong as they completed a story book season that culminated in the school’s first National Prep Championship March 8 at Connecticut College.
The Mustangs earned the number one seed in the National Prep Championship after 24 straight regular season wins and a Great Atlantic Conference tournament crown.
The Mustangs earned a first round bye in the 12 team tournament. They awaited the winner of CBD Montverde (FL) and Scotland Campus (PA). In a hard fought game Scotland Campus earned a comeback victory and a date with the top-seeded Mustangs.
The Mustangs maintained control throughout the first half and built up a 19-point lead behind the stellar play of junior forward Akok Akok who ended up with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Scotland Campus (PA) would not go away as they mounted a furious comeback, but the Mustangs were able to withstand it and move on with a 88-82 victory.
The Mustangs would matchup with crosstown rival Woodstock Academy after they defeated Brewster Academy in overtime. The Mustangs and Centaurs would play a back and forth heavyweight battle that saw lead changes and an emotional roller coaster for all fans watching. Kyle Lofton (18 points), Josh Mballa (17 points) and Jose Perez (16 points) paced the Mustangs. The Mustangs were able to secure a 80-72 win in overtime and punch their ticket to the finals.
For Tom Espinosa and the Mustangs this would be their first appearance in the National Championship. They would face-off against perennial power and the number 3 seed Northfield Mt. Hermon.
It would not be an ideal start for the Mustangs as Northfield won the opening tip and had an opening layup in seconds. The Mustangs would trail by 14 at halftime and as many as 17, but just like all year the Mustangs would not go away.
The Mustangs started to mount a furious comeback that featured center Osun Osunniyi (27 points). Osunniyi was able to complete dominate down low with multiple hook shots and thunderous dunks for the Mustangs. Then with a minute left and down three, Jose Perez (16 points) sunk a three pointer from the top of the key to tie the game up.
Northfield would get the last chance with 5 seconds left in regulation, but Kyle Lofton blocked the shot attempt and forced overtime.
The Mustangs who didn’t lead until overtime would not be denied as Osunniyi continued to dominate the paint and Akok Akok (11 points) would knockdown a three pointer to extend the lead.
The Mustangs completed the comeback and won the national championship by a score of 74-66 and Osunniyi was named tournament MVP.
Shane Doyle
English Teacher
Asst. Basketball Coach PSA

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