Park’s boys basketball team definitely has been pushed this week from rallying to win a nail-biter at home over St. Francis to hanging on for the "W" over defending Section V Class AA champion McQuaid.
The capper to a perfect 3-0 run by the Pioneers came Saturday afternoon, as the brothers Hutchins took turns making plays at key moments that enabled Park to come out on top of a Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association clash over host Canisius, 64-53, at the Bernard Kennedy Fieldhouse.
With the Pioneers (10-1) leading by five early in the fourth quarter, senior Noah Hutchins and his brother, sophomore Caleb, combined for seven points during a 9-0 run that enabled the defending state Federation Class A champions to seize control for good against the perennial league-contending Crusaders (8-5) before an estimated crowd of more than 500.
The 6-foot-1 Noah Hutchins recorded a game-high 18 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and two steals, while 6-2 Caleb had 10 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two assists for the Buffalo News’ top-ranked large school.
During a week in which the Pioneers held on for a one-point overtime win over St. Francis and a seven-point win at McQuaid, they found themselves in another close one against a Canisius program that has won three of the last five Manhattan Cup Class A championships – but a Crusaders’ crew that’s a bit younger than past editions.
With the Pioneers clinging to a five-point lead with 6:26 left, Noah Hutchins sparked the decisive run by nailing a pair of free throws to make it 46-39. Caleb followed with a three-pointer after a Canisius turnover. After a steal and layup by Noah, the Park lead was 51-39.
The Hutchins’ contributions have been solid the past few games with both scoring in double figures, Noah at 22.0 per game and Caleb at 11.7.
The Hutchins brothers gave their team a little breathing room in the third quarter after Park opened the frame with a 25-22 lead. The highlight-reel moment: an alley-oop layup from Noah to Caleb that made it 37-29. Caleb followed that with a steal and layup and then set up sophomore Keonjay Carter (15 points) for a layup that made it 41-29.
“Caleb as a sophomore is a very smart player,” Park coach Rich Jacob said. “Always plays within himself. Always ready to do whatever the team needs. ... I can’t say enough about the great potential that he (has).”
“I think everybody has a role that they play,” Noah Hutchins said. “They stopped some of our key players. I think that Caleb especially stepped up, rebounded and got shots. We kicked it out and we ran. That’s our best thing. We have to do that more.”
Canisius only made 5-of-13 from the free-throw line. A better showing at the stripe is definitely a concern but that’s not the reason the Crusaders lost to Park on Saturday.
“I just think we still have stretches where we give away possessions and that filters into poor defense,” Crusaders coach Kyle Husband said. “We just need to keep working and try to limit those stretches.”
Dewayne Vass led Canisius with 17 points, while Jason Martin added 15.
Canisius is off until Saturday when it visits rival St. Joe’s. Park, meanwhile, returns to action Tuesday at Nichols.
Though the Pioneers have reason to feel good about themselves at the moment, there’s still a lot of season to go.
“This is a strong league,” Jacob said. “We have to fight every possession. There’s absolutely nothing taken for granted.”