The Putnam Science Academy Men’s Basketball program strives to develop aspiring students into successful student athletes and leaders with character and a passion for excellence, both on and off the court. We base our program on five core principles:
Nov 2, 2023
WORCESTER, Mass. – Mouhamed Dioubate had 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three blocks Friday night, while Baye Ndongo made two free throws with 0.3 seconds and Putnam Science Academy won its second straight National Prep basketball championship by beating Sunrise Christian Academy 80-76. It is PSA’s fourth national title overall, with all of them coming in the last six years.
“I just got used to being three-time champions,” coach Tom Espinosa said. “I’ve got all those shirts that say ‘three-time.’ I guess we’ll have to get new ones.”
“We’ve been working for this since August,” said Dioubate, who was a major player off the bench last year and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player this year. “This is the best feeling ever. We faced a lot of adversity on this team, and we still did it. They put us as the fourth seed…they didn’t think we were going to win. And look what happened! We’re the champs! Two times in a row!”
Last year, the Mustangs (39-3) were undefeated and the championship game victory seemed like a mere formality. That seemed like it was going to be the case again Friday night when PSA opened up a 20-point lead midway through the second half. But Sunrise got hot and kept chipping away, eventually whittling the deficit to 77-76 with 40 seconds to play. The Buffaloes missed a pair of 3-pointers before PSA’s Miles Rose ended up with the ball in his hands. He was promptly fouled, and hit one-of-two free throws to make it a two-point game with 15.8 seconds left. Sunrise got into the lane for a final shot attempt, but Dioubate and Oswin Erhunmwunse combined to block the shot (“That’s what I do,” said Erhunmwunse, who blocked 15 shots in four tournament games). Ndongo was fouled with 0.3 seconds left on the clock and made both free throws, then backed down the court with his arms extended wide as time expired, setting off a wild celebration at midcourt.
“I have been working on those last-minute free throws for that kind of moment,” said Ndongo, an uber-talented wing who joined the team at the start of the second semester and is headed to Rutgers next year. “It was up to me but I didn’t feel any pressure. It was a good feeling to know the game was over and we won the championship. I am so happy to be a champion.”
Coach Tom Espinosa and his staff had the Mustangs playing their best basketball as the season closed. He said that while they probably had their worst game of the tournament in the final, in the end they made the plays they needed to make.
“I’m excited for the kids,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team, individually, go through more adversity than these individuals. I could go through almost the entire roster, and the kid overcame some adversity. Starting, not starting, playing, not playing. Being suspended for not holding up our standards off the court. Darryl (Simmons) Tarique Foster, DJ Dormu, Duane (Thompson), Blake Barkley…I could go on and on and on. The kids really deserve this, they bought in. They won 24 straight games to end the season. What they’ve gone through and accomplished, I’ve never seen here before.”
“This feels good,” said Rose, a reserve on last year’s team, who developed into a starter this year. “But I called it before the season even started, so we expected it.”
Thompson, the ever-exuberant wing who is expected to be back next season for his third and final year, followed Rose’s lead, taking it one step further.
“I’m calling it now,” he said. “I’ve got two rings now. This is PSA…I’m getting another one next year!”
WORCESTER, Mass. – Oswin Erhunmwunse registered his second double-double in as many games in the national tournament Thursday afternoon, and was the player of the game.
But it was DJ Dormu who got the nod from the coaching staff and his teammates as THE Player of the Game, selected for the team tradition honor of “putting up the W” in the celebratory locker room.
With starting point guard Darryl Simmons unavailable for the Mustangs, it was Dormu who steered the ship and guided PSA to a 63-56 win over Brewster Academy and a spot in the National Prep Tournament’s Final Four.
The fourth-seeded Mustangs (37-3) will play No. 8 Bradford Christian Academy at 11 a.m. Friday with a berth in the championship game later that night at 7:30 on the line.
“I talked with Darryl before the game to make sure my team was being run the right way,” said Dormu, who had seven points and three assists while playing a team-high 34 minutes, including all 20 in the second half. “I wanted to make sure we did what we needed to do to win the game. We played hard, we played good defense. I’m proud of myself because this whole year I’ve gone through adversity, playing, not playing but I brought what my team needed today to help them win.”
It has been a season of wild swings of ups and downs for Dormu. He opened the season in the starting lineup, alongside Simmons. He ran afoul of the coaching staff and fell out of the rotation. He didn’t play in four straight games in December. There was talk of not having him come back after the semester break. He came back but was still not playing. Then he got called upon in a late-January game against this same Brewster team. The Mustangs were struggling for a spark, and Dormu provided it. He entered for the first time in the second half and his energy changed the game, which the Mustangs rallied to win. He has been a part of the regular rotation since then, but he was never needed as much as he was Thursday.
“DJ is a gamer,” coach Tom Espinosa said. “That guy could play three games in a row, he never wants to come out. And he got his opportunity today. I’m really proud of him because he’s gone through adversity. They all have, but DJ has probably gone through it the most. I mean, we were at the point where we wouldn’t have minded if he left because of the way he was acting. But give him all the credit – all the credit – because he stuck with it, he stuck with it…and today he helped us get to a Final Four.”
Now, it wasn’t just Dormu.
Erhunmwunse was awesome again, finishing with another double-double, this time with 14 points and 11 rebounds, plus five blocks, proving to be an unmatched difference-maker and rim protector. He had 10 blocks and 11 rebounds in Round 1.
The Mustangs had a balanced offensive attack as Will Lovings-Watts scored 10 points, Miles Rose had 9, Mouhamed Dioubate finished with 8 plus 10 rebounds, and Baye Ndongo finished with 7 points.
PSA led by as many as 20 points in the first half, before settling for a nine-point halftime lead. Brewster opened the second half on a 10-0 run to take its first lead, before the teams played back and forth for most of the rest of the game. The game was tied at 48-48 with about six minutes to go when PSA went on a 10-0 run of its own. The Mustangs made enough free throws down the stretch and now it’s on to Bradford Christian, a team that has handed PSA two of its three losses this season. The Mustangs though have rolled off 22 straight wins since that second BCA meeting, back on January 15.
“I think we’re playing our best basketball right now,” Espinosa said. “We’re excited to be in the Final Four again, but we know we have work to do. Bradford’s beaten us twice this year so it’s not going to be easy. But we’ll be ready.”
The magnitude of Mouhamed Dioubate’s record-breaking rebound made the postgame celebration even better.
When Dioubate, Putnam Science Academy’s standout wing, snared an offensive rebound with about five minutes left in Wednesday’s first-round game at the National Prep Tournament, it was his 11th board of the game and 648th of his career, moving him into first place on the school’s all-time list.
But when he scored on the putback while getting fouled, then rebounded his own free throw miss, then went 2-for-2 from the line, the Mustangs had a 66-60 lead and were on their way to the win.
“That was pretty big rebound, a pretty big play for us,” said Mustangs coach Tom Espinosa, whose announcement of the feat in the locker room after the game, touched off a wild celebration by his teammates. “But that’s Mo. He’s a big-time player and he makes big-time plays. I’ve said it before, in my opinion, he’s the best player in prep school basketball. I wouldn’t trade him for any other prep player.”
Dioubate, from Queens, N.Y., surpassed Mamadou Diarra, also from Queens, at the top of the list, and the relationship between the two made it sweeter for Dioubate.
“Mamadou, that’s my guy,” he said. “It means a lot more because I’m passing a Queens guy, a guy that comes from a similar background as me. Even without Mamadou there, it’s an honor,” Dioubate said. “It’s an honor. I worked hard for this, and it means a lot. A lot of people don’t get to do this. It’s work, you just have to go get it.”
Said teammate Ben Ahmed (whom Dioubate graciously said could likely set a number above his own): “You’ve got to be tough. He’s always got people looking for him and knowing where he is. Other teams work to keep him from getting rebounds and he still gets them. He always goes strong, and that’s something I learn from him.”
Dioubate had 38 rebounds in 13 games during his first season, the Covid-shortened 2020-21. He came back in 21-22 as a key reserve on the championship team and finished with 246 boards. This year, the Alabama-commit has 366 rebounds and counting. PSA has at least two more games remaining, and as many as three should the Mustangs advance to the championship game. He is also 42 rebounds short of the single-season record, and 18 points shy of becoming just the fourth player to score 1,000 career points.
“Mo is a phenomenal human being, just a great kid. And he’s a phenomenal basketball player. You root for guys like that, you’re happy for guys like that. Mo deserves it.”
Putnam Science Academy’s nationally ranked Men’s Prep basketball team opens play in the National Prep Championship Wednesday, March 8, with a first-round game against Perkiomen School (Pa.) at 6 p.m.
The tournament runs Wednesday-Friday, and all games will be played at the Kneller Athletic Center on the campus of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts .
PSA is 35-3 this season after going 38-0 and winning its third national title last year.
“I like our team and how we’re playing right now,” coach Tom Espinosa said. “We’ve won a lot of close games where we had to be tough and that’s how we want to be. We haven’t always been that way this year, so to be doing it now in the postseason is a good thing.”
The road to a fourth title won’t be easy:
If the Mustangs gets past its first game, a second-round matchup with fellow perennial power Brewster Academy looms. PSA’s side of the bracket also includes Hargrave Military Academy, which is the No. 1 overall seed, and Bradford Christian Academy, which handed PSA two of its three losses this year.
“Winning a championship isn’t supposed to be easy,” Espinosa said. “There are a lot of really good teams in this tournament, and we’re going to have to be ready to beat four of them if we want to accomplish our goals. I think we’re one of those really good teams too, and we can play a lot of different ways, and I think we can beat anybody in the country.”
The Mustangs, winners of 20 straight games, are led by: