One never knows how these marquee matchups between league leaders that look good on paper will turn out, even as the game is unfolding before one's eyes.
With Park nursing a one-point halftime lead – an edge it secured late in the second quarter after trailing Bishop Timon-St. Jude for most of the opening 16 minutes, did anyone see a 30-point blowout coming?
That's exactly what happened Friday night before a sellout crowd at The Park School. The Buffalo News' No. 1 large school stepped on the gas during the second half and never relented in speeding past third-ranked Timon, 76-46, in a clash between Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association front-runners.
Noah Hutchins scored 15 of his game-high 26 points during Park's 30-point third quarter. Daniel Scott had 10 of his 14 points after halftime as the Pioneers, who lost nearly a month ago by a point at Timon after taking an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter, avenged that defeat and extended their winning streak to seven straight games.
"We knew we had to come out with a different approach," said Hutchins, who finished with seven rebounds and four assists. "Last game we were slowing the ball down and playing at their tempo. This game that was the main thing, our team ran."
Park pushed the tempo and didn't stop until the clock hit zero, with the reserves pushing the pace, too, too once they played out the final 90 seconds.
The Pioneers led 29-28 at halftime, but quickly expanded their advantage with Hutchins scoring first on a layup and then via putback. Quentin Nnagbo followed with a putback and then a dunk off a feed from Hutchins. A long two-pointer from Hutchins made it 39-30 with 5:31 left in the third. Nearly two minutes later Park stretched the lead to 14 after back-to-back threes from Hutchins and Scott.
Timon pulled within 47-38 late in third on a trey by Tahron Goudelock, but a three-point play by Hutchins, a three from Brandon Smith (13 points) and then a coast-to-coast layup from Hutchins extended the lead once again. Park led 59-40 after three quarters.
"I feel like we continue to improve our man to man defense and we look to push the ball more consistently," Pioneers coach Rich Jacob said. "It starts on our defensive end and controlling the boards. … We were able to take control of the tempo and our shot selection also improved. Again great leadership by Noah Hutchins. He's our catalyst."
Timon (15-3, 6-2) led most of the first half, bolting to a 16-7 lead as the Tigers had their inside and outside game going with Julian Cunningham (12 points) and John Shields hitting three-pointers during the run while Master Radford had four points in the paint.
After Park pulled within 16-15 early in the second quarter on Smith's trey, Timon responded via dunk by Radford and a three-pointer from Alero World.
A Smith three-pointer gave the Pioneers the lead, 25-24, with 3:36 left in the second. They never trailed after that in snapping the Tigers' six-game winning streak.
"We didn't execute. We didn't rebound. We didn't do what we were supposed to do. Hats off to Park they played excellent," Timon coach Jason Rowe said. "We had turnovers. When you have 18-19 turnovers and you give the other team 19-20 offensive rebounds it's going to be tough to win a game."
Park (15-4, 8-1) now must prepare for another heavyweight clash with first-place implications as it visits three-time defending Manhattan Cup champion Canisius, the News' second-ranked team. The Pioneers handed Canisius its only league loss two weeks ago.