Stop to smell the roses. But know there is one more to go.
That’s how PSA’s boys Prep basketball team approached the postgame celebration Sunday night after a 96-70 win over Commonwealth Academy in the title game of the Power 5 Conference Tournament.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Arturo Dean, who had 13 points, six assists, and three steals. “Like Coach said, enjoy the moment because not everybody gets to celebrate a championship. So we’re excited about it.
“And now we’ll get ready for the National championships. That’s what we want, that’s what we’ve been preparing for all year. We’ve got a good chance to win it, we’ve got a great team. We just have to keep it rolling.”
The target was on the Mustangs’ collective back this weekend, as every team wants to be the one to knock off the top-ranked team in the country. To this point, no one has, and PSA stands at 34-0 heading into Nationals. PSA is looking for its third national crown, having won in 2018 and 2020. The Mustangs start play Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Bradford Christian Academy at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. A win would put them into Thursday’s quarterfinals; the semis and title game will be played Friday at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.
“I’ve never won one of these,” Barry Evans, who finished with seven points and six rebounds Sunday. “It feels good to be part of something great. And now it’s on to the Nationals, and try to be part of something great there too.” PSA, which has made a habit of turning five-point leads into 25-point leads real quick throughout the season, actually found itself in a ballgame in the second half Sunday. Commonwealth closed to within 11 at halftime, then trailed just 60-53 with 12-plus minutes to go in the game.
Three-and-a-half minutes later though, PSA’s lead was at 22, 75-53, following a monster dunk by Evans and a 3-pointer from Dean. “I honestly didn’t even know the game had gotten that close,” Dean said. “I thought we were blowing them out the entire game. Coach was like ‘Hey, they’re in the game now’ and I turned and looked at the scoreboard. Time to turn it up.”
Said Coach Tom Espinosa: “Any other year, I probably would have been freaking out. But this team is different. They make me feel comfortable. It’s crazy. (Commonwealth) made their run, I knew it was going to happen, and I was OK with it. We took a couple bad shots took a couple plays off defensively. It’s part of the game. But 12 minutes is a lot of time left and I was pretty confident we would be all right.”
Desmond Claude led PSA with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and DayDay Gittens added 20 on 7-of-11 shooting. Ugonna Kingsley added 13 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks.