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Park rides the wave of momentum to historic win over Canisius

Noah Hutchins had a day. So too did his Park teammates.

The end result produced an historic victory by the Pioneers and ended the one-sidedness of the Canisius-Park rivalry within the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association.

Hutchins scored 17 of his game-high 23 points during a monster first half, while a defense spearheaded by athletic big man Joe Jones made life difficult for the host Crusaders as News No. 1 Large School Park pulled away for a 73-47 victory Tuesday night before an estimated 1,000.

Hutchins’ half-court three-pointer to end the first quarter broke the game’s final tie and was one of many big plays by Pioneers, who defeated the two-time defending state Catholic Class A champions for the first time in six meetings between the schools.

“This was huge for us,” said Hutchins, who has played against Canisius four times. “We’ve been working so hard. Just coming into the game, we knew we had to come in and play an entire game.”

While the previous four encounters were all single-digit defeats for Park – including last year’s 60-58 overtime loss in the Manhattan Cup final, this one lacked the late-game suspense of those previous matchups.

Hutchins and Jones played big roles in that against the area's fifth-ranked large school.

The 6-foot-8 Jones, a junior, finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. Hutchins, the 6-foot sophomore, recorded five rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks to help the Pioneers improve to 8-1 overall, 3-0 in league.

But Hutchins’ three-pointer ... it kept momentum on the Pioneers’ side and was part of a 20-3 that enabled Park to seize control for good. To think, Hutchins’ status was in doubt because of a stomach flu that forced him to miss school and practice on Monday.

“It still bothered me a little bit but I wanted to play this game badly,” Hutchins said.

Regarding his three-pointer: “It was a tie game. It brought the fans up, it brought the team up. From there we just kept going. It helped out a lot. I’m not going to lie.”

If Hutchins’ three didn’t leave the Crusaders feeling queasy, his high-flying shot block on a buzzer-beating layup try that seemed like it was an easy two points left them feeling woozy.

That rejection preserved a 37-25 halftime lead for Park. The Pioneers maintained that 12-point edge at the end of the third quarter as Jones scored five of his 13 points during the period.

Still Park has had the Crusaders on the ropes in past meetings only to fall short.

Tuesday was different.

“This game we were better,” Pioneers coach Mike Battaglia said. “The kids have been playing hard. They’ve been practicing hard. They prepared for this game. We’re just happy to get a win.”

Hutchins’ three-pointer was huge, but he hit other shots just as important to help spark a comeback from an early 12-6 deficit. He scored six straight points to tie things. After a three-pointer by Canisius’ Ryan Bradley, Daniel Scott followed with one of his own to tie it for the last time – setting the stage for Hutchins’ half-court shot.

“Obviously momentum is part of every game, but we can’t let a play like that which is somewhat meaningless affect the next four minutes,” Canisius coach Kyle Husband said of Hutchins' basket.

Hutchins scored 10 points during Park's decisive run.

"I thought Noah played the best I've ever seen," Husband said. "He was the best player on the court."

Jones wasn’t too bad either. He scored five points during the third quarter to help the Pioneers stay ahead by 12 heading into the final period.

When Jones threw down a one-handed rim shaking jam with 1:51 left, that sent fans to the exit as the Pioneers had a 66-43 lead and were on their way toward becoming the first team to beat Canisius on its home floor since Nichols during the 2014 Monsignor Martin semifinals.

Austin James and Jayce Johnson each scored 13 points to lead Canisius (5-5, 1-2).

“Park is a very good basketball team and I don’t think we’re at that level yet,” Husband said. “I think we’re at our best when we’re moving and getting different guys the basketball. We didn’t give ourselves many open looks.”

Park returns to action Thursday at home in another marquee local showdown as it faces second-ranked Williamsville South.

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