W. HARTFORD — It’s very difficult to defeat a team three times in a season especially with that 3rd time coming in a title game. That was the case at the University of Saint Joseph this past weekend as the #1 seed Putnam Science Academy Prep Boys were facing the #2 seed Our Savior Lutheran.
The Mustangs beat the Falcons earlier in the year handedly at home and would win again out in New York by double digits just under a month ago but this time, a conference title was on the line and the Falcons were ready. Our Savior Lutheran jumped out on the Mustangs early starting the game on a 12-2 run and would lead 25-13 with 8 minutes remaining in the 1st half catching PSA off guard. “We came out and played sloppy, we didn’t play team ball and turnovers killed us in the 1st half,” Head Coach Tom Espinosa said in the postgame interview. The Mustangs would go on a 6-0 run to end the 1st half and trailed at halftime 44-39.
Putnam Science was not going to let the Great Atlantic Conference title slip away.
The Mustangs moved from the Power 5 Conference into the Great Atlantic Conference 2 years ago, a conference that Head Coach Tom Espinosa began. A Division 1 and 2 were formed with a North and South Division. The Mustangs play in Division 1 in the North along with Our Savior Lutheran, Upper Room Christian Academy and Capital Prep Harbor. The South houses Mount Zion and Scotland Campus Sports, both of who are ranked in the top 10 and will be competing in the National Prep Showcase this upcoming week. With the Mustangs taking the GAC title last year, they had a repeat on their mind headed into the 2nd half vs the Falcons.
“This is their championship; we need to match their energy!” Espinosa said at halftime in front of his team. Putnam Science players weren’t helping themselves in the first half turning the ball over nine times and shooting a dreadful 7 for 17 from the free throw line.
One thing the Mustangs have that most National Prep teams don’t is a solid core of returning players from the previous year.
Experience proved to be the difference in the second half as the Mustangs rallied behind junior guard Hassan Diarra. Diarra scored just 5 points in the 1st half of play before turning up in the 2nd half and attacking the rim relentlessly. “We had them in foul trouble and that was kind of my mindset” said Diarra. Keep attacking them and get to the free throw line, we couldn’t shoot any worse from the line so I wanted to keep going at them.” PSA figured it out from the charity strike making 19 free throws including Diarra’s free throw with 3:38 to play that gave the Mustangs their 1st lead of the game.
A 12-point deficit turned into a 4-point win 88-84 for Putnam Science Academy as they improved to 37-1 and won their 2nd straight Great Atlantic Conference title. Diarra was named Most Valuable Player scoring a game-high 23 points, 18 of which came in the second half, to go with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Tyson Etienne had 17 points and big man Russel Tchewa made big plays in the paint adding 14 points for the Mustangs.
After being named the 2019 Coach of the Year in Division 1, PSA’s Espinosa said, “This team just doesn’t quit. We have been in these games before this year, you know, not playing well and falling behind but this group of kids just won’t quit, they battle until the very end and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
Josh Sanchas
Sports Information Director
Putnam Science Academy


RocketTheme Joomla Templates