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Undisputed: Park wins battle of No. 1 teams by handing O'Hara its first loss

There’s still a lot of season left, but should the Park School and Cardinal O’Hara end their respective campaigns with No. 1 rankings both will undoubtedly be thrilled with the achievements.

Both also will know which boys basketball team would be the undisputed No. 1.

That would be Park based on head-to-head record.

The Buffalo News’ No. 1 large school spoiled senior night at O’Hara, ending the Hawks’ run of perfection by claiming a 71-57 victory in a showdown between Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association division leaders on a windy, wintry Thursday night in Tonawanda.

The loss is Cardinal O’Hara’s first in 22 games this season, snapping the state’s second-longest winning streak at 21.

Seniors Noah Hutchins and Quentin Nnagbo led the way for defending Federation Class A champion Park (19-2), combining for 45 points. Hutchins scored 11 of his game-high 27 during an entertaining back-and-forth first quarter. Nnagbo took care of business inside, scoring 10 of his 18 during the final 16 minutes after the Pioneers successfully moved the ball to get open looks from three during the first half.

Park also did a decent job slowing the game down by not letting the Hawks run-and-gun in transition, holding them to a season-low point total. Cardinal O’Hara, the News’ No. 1 small school, came in averaging 85.1 points per game.

“I can’t think of one thing we did really well,” O’Hara coach Tony Pulvirenti said. “And against Park you have to do a lot of things well (in order to beat them). Maybe it’s not a complete negative. Hopefully it’s something we learn from.”

“Our contain defense helped frustrate them,” Pioneers coach Rich Jacob said. “(O’Hara) is deep, athletic and explosive. I thought we were able to be mentally tough down the stretch and controlled the tempo. We spread the offense, hoping to get the ball inside.”

Both teams entered Wednesday ranked second in their respective state polls, Park in Class A and O’Hara in B.

After a back and forth first quarter that ended with Park leading 20-18, the Pioneers seized control by scoring eight straight points after Jaedin Cottman’s putback tied it 20-20. Hutchins led the charge, following a Hawks miss going coast to coast for a layup. After a steal, he scored on another layup 9 seconds later. Jaiden Dunn followed with a long two-point basket and Nnagbo capped it dribbling baseline for a short jumper.

Caleb Hutchins’ three made it 36-25 with 2:06 left in the second quarter. The Pioneers led at intermission 42-32.

Neither team had much success with its offense in the third quarter, although O’Hara won it 9-8 – putting itself in position to steal a win with one very good quarter.

O’Hara pulled within 7 on Haakim Siner’s layup early in the fourth. Noah Hutchins followed with a traditional three-point play and two free throws with younger brother Caleb’s putback sandwiched in between to make it 57-45 with 5:40 left.

Although a lower body ailment has been limiting Hutchins over a recent stretch, he started against O’Hara and hardly left the game.

“He came to play,” Jacob said. “Clearly he’s playing through some things but he’s a tough, tough competitor and our leader.”

O’Hara looks to rebound Friday when it visits Nichols. Park returns to action Thursday when it faces Archbishop Walsh.

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