Entering the fourth quarter, Umojah Hutchinson stood out only because of his thick, long dreadlocks that nearly hang to his waist. He was scoreless, just one of nine others on the court.
Yet, with his Frederick Douglass Academy III boys’ basketball team clinging to a three-point lead over HS of Construction entering the final eight minutes of a PSAL Class B quarterfinal game at CCNY, Jumel Carlos caught Hutchinson’s eye.
“Bring us home,” the coach said.
See, Hutchinson, the Lions’ senior point guard, is known for sterling performances in crunch time. His 13 points – which led top-seeded FDA III past No. 8 Construction, 54-45, in the final stanza – was the latest example. The Lions will meet No. 5 East New York Family Academy in the ‘B’ semifinals March 17 at Hunter College.
“My mindset changed,” the 5-foot-11 guard said. “The fourth quarter is my time to shine. The coaches put all the pressure on my back. Pressure is good because I’m used to it now.”
His first two points were a pair of free throws that pushed the Lions’ one-point lead to three. Two possessions later, he hit a pretty runner in the lane and hit a free throw to complete a 3-point play. Then came another free throw, a layup followed by a steal and a 3-point play to cap an 8-0 run he started. He put the capper on the outburst with another steal, his fourth of the quarter, and layup with 21.0 seconds remaining, the final points for either side.
“We knew he was gonna be a handful,” Construction coach Jason Salamanca said. “He’s very disciplined. He’s very smart. He makes all the right decisions. That’s the type of player he is – he’s going to make all the big plays.”
Said Carlos: “He loves those situations, so I know he would play well.”
It was a sad ending for the Red Hawks (18-5), who saw their 15-game winning streak come to an end in front of their large rooting section. It included two busloads full of students dressed in red and a band.
“We owe a lot to them,” Salamanca said. “They’re why we are so good at home.”
Kyle McQueen led Construction with 14 points and John Galimi followed with 11.
Hutchinson made up for the shortcomings of others. Sophomore big men Moussa Kone and Kevin Douglass combined to miss 10-of-14 at the free throw line and score a combined 18 points, despite owning a decided size advantage in the paint. Leading scorer Anthony Hunt struggled from the field.
That the Lions (27-0) were able to survive shows the depth Carlos has developed at the Bronx school. It is usually a different player every night that steps up and that is why FDA II feels like the next few weeks will be a special time.
“We’re trying to get to Glens Falls,” Carlos said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”
“We have 11 guys that can play like a starting five,” Hutchinson said.
Basketball isn’t the only reason the Lions want to make the trip upstate for the state Federation Class B tournament. Hutchinson has promised an end-of-the-year prize.
“When we win in Glens Falls,” Hutchinson predicted, “I’ll cut (my hair) off.”