The motto at this point in the basketball season is always “survive and advance.” Don’t apologize for any wins, don’t focus on too many negatives in a win. Just survive and advance.
Putnam Science Academy’s Men’s Prep team did just that March 5, winning the Power 5 Conference Tournament with an 80-73 victory over Commonwealth despite struggling in a lot of different facets of the game.
“After a game like this, I do have to remind myself that a win is a win,” PSA coach Tom Espinosa said. “Especially at this time of year. You’re in a championship game, so obviously you’re playing someone that’s playing well, playing hard, playing as a team. I give a lot of credit to Commonwealth. But at the same time, I’m proud of our guys. Some guys individually, didn’t have a great game. And as a team, we didn’t play great, offensively or defensively. But we still won. That shows you how good this team is.”
Mouhamed Dioubate finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, and three assists in the win. Oswin Erhunmwunse added 14 points and eight rebounds, Baye Ndongo had nine points and six boards, and Ben Ahmed finished with 10 points for PSA (35-3).
“It means a lot to win this, honestly,” Dioubate said. “We’ve been working hard, everyone is buying in now, and this is a reward for it. We really want the national championship, but we are definitely appreciative of this.”
Dioubate enters the final games of his career needing 48 points to reach 1,000 in his career, and 11 rebounds to become PSA’s all-time leader in that category.
The Mustangs led 54-40 five-and-a-half minutes into the second half after Ndongo threw down an eye-popping alley oop and Duane Thompson drained a 3-pointer. But Commonwealth fought back and trailed just 77-73 with 15.3 seconds left. Ndongo missed front end of a 1-and-1 but Erhunmwunse grabbed the offensive board, laid it back in while getting fouled, then made the free throw to put the game away for good.
“A win is a win, and a championship is a championship,” Espinosa said. “I told them before the game to not take it for granted. A lot of these guys are going to college next year and it is really hard to win a championship in college. Regular season, conference, national championship…it’s really, really difficult. I told them that they deserved this. I want them to enjoy it and appreciate it. Then (Monday), we can start focusing on our next goal, which is back-to-back national championships.”
It sounds like Dioubate was already thinking about that late Sunday evening.
“I’m very excited for Wednesday,” he said. “We’ve been waiting on this since we got here in August, we’ve been talking about it since August. That moment is finally coming. I can’t wait for it