Boys’ Basketball
PSA loses 
at the buzzer
in national
By Ron P. Coderre
It’s basketball tournament time for high schools, prep schools and colleges and if you tune in to your television or social media outlet you’re bound to see a flurry of exciting buzzer beaters every day.  Some are from beyond mid-court, others on a last second tip-in and some on well guarded shots from impossible angles.
That was the story for the Putnam Science Academy Mustangs in their quest for a National Prep School Championship.  The never-say-die charges of coach Tom Espinosa, in a dogfight with St. Thomas More a team that’s quickly becoming an archrival, was beaten at the buzzer 77-76 in a semifinal contest at Albertus Magnus University in New Haven.
The final shot, with 2.2 ticks remaining on the clock, was made by the Moremen’s Julian Batts.  Closely guarded by the Mustangs defense, Batts found his way to the right side of the hoop and hit an almost impossible fade away, which went through the twine cleanly.  The shot propelled St. Thomas More into the finals and dashed PSA’s hopes for a National crown, sending the team and its faithful follower’s home with tears in their eyes.
The Mustangs who were in the contest to the final buzzer, led at one point in the first half  by as many as 15 points and it looked like they might run away with the win.  To STM’s credit they fought back, closing the gap to two points at intermission 38-36, PSA on top.
The second half was a seesaw battle with the Mustangs going on top 74-73 on a Mamadou Diarra emphatic dunk.  At the 1:23 mark, St. Thomas went ahead 75-74 on a pair of free throws as Putnam’s Hamidou Diallo fouled out.
A cool and collected Tyreek Perkins was fouled with 1:03 remaining.  He went to the Charity stripe and calmly hit a pair of free throws, putting PSA on top once again 76-75 until the fateful shot by Batts.
The Mustangs had a number of outstanding performances but the eye opener was the play of young Eric Ayala, who came off the bench to lead his mates in scoring with 19 points.  Ayala, who has been the Mustangs top performer down the stretch, hit two three pointers, a free throw and produced six exciting baskets with slashing drives to the hole.  His play ignited his teammates as well as the large throng of Putnam followers in the stands.
Ayala was joined in double figures by Jaheam Cornwall who had 13, Saul Phiri with 11and 14 from UConn-bound Diarra.
“It’s unfortunate that someone has to lose a game like this.  Our kids played their hearts out and I feel badly, especially for them.  They’re a great group of young men.  This loss will sting for a while,” said coach Espinosa.
Putnam Science Academy reached the semifinals by disposing of DME Academy of Daytona Beach, Fla., 93-66.  The win was the first ever in National Prep Championship competition for coach Espinosa.  Following a tight first half, in which the Mustangs took a 39-33 lead to the locker room, Espinosa’s men enjoyed a solid second half performance for the 27-point victory.
PSA placed four players in double figures in the win, paced by Diallo with 17 and Phiri with 16.  Diarra and Ayala each chipped in a dozen.
Words such as WHISKER.  EYELASH.  BY A NOSE.  And other sports clichés that describe close finishes in sports will be referred to when conversations come up about the semifinal loss but they won’t change the outcome.  In the end, the Mustangs have much to celebrate about this season as they close the books on 2015-2016 at a lofty 37-4. 
High School Season Comes to a Close
Plainfield High School posted a first round victory in the CIAC Tournament, beating Prince Tech 66-65 in a nail biter.  The victory came on a three-point shot by David Carpenter with about a minute left to play in the contest.
Plainfield a #20 seed fell behind 39-28 to #13 Prince Tech at halftime but responded with a monster 38-point second half offensive production in posting the win.  The Panthers had four players in double figures led by Carpenter with 17, in what was probably the team’s best game of the season.  Liam Jacobs had another stellar performance, posting a double-double, with 16 points and 13 rebounds.  Other double figure scorers were Dylan Horn with 15 and Jeff Nicolosi with a dozen.
In second round action Plainfield fell hard to Bloomfield 70-43 as not one player reached double digits.  Marcus Robinson, Elijah Malboeuf and Jacobs all had eight points in the loss.  Plainfield concludes its season at 12-11.
Putnam traveled to Canton for a First Round game and came home on the short end of the stick 67-44.  Canton a #9 seed was too much for the #20 Clippers.  Dan Porcic with 20 points and Zach Cutler with 10 were Putnam’s top point producers.  The Clippers close the books on the season at 11-10.
Killingly had the unenviable task of playing Sacred Heart, the #1 team in Class M and in the entire State of Connecticut, in its First Round action.  As many had predicted the Redmen fell victim to Sacred Heart 94-30.  Kyle Grzysiewicz was Killingly’s leading scorer with eight points.  The Redmen finish at 7-14 on the season.
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