It’s just like old times for Mt. St. Michael.
A year ago, the Mountaineers came to Uniondale High School and knocked off Baldwin in the Upstate/Downstate Tournament. This year, the Mount did not disappoint their faithful.
Andrew Utate banked in a three-pointer with 2 seconds remaining in the game, then watched as Jaaz Styles’ last ditch three at the buzzer from 30 feet away came up short in Mt. St. Michael’s 47-45 victory.
“I don’t know, I just threw it up in desperation and it went in,” said Utate who finished with 11 points and 4 rebounds. With the clock ticking down, he received the ball in front of his bench, then with Aaron Cust draped over him and a hand in his face the left released a shot that would shock the hometown crowd.
Utate is considered one of the finest outside shooters in the tri-state area, but he had a difficult time finding his shot as the game-winner was the only three-pointer he and his team would have in the ball game. He is also the only starter from a year ago to return to Mt. St. Michael for the 2012-13 campaign, but he doesn’t view that as a negative.
“I have a big role. Now I’m the only one here since Malik [Gill], Anthony [Maestre], Edward [Correa], and Omari [Manhertz] left,” Utate continues, “I’ve changed, I have to be a leader, I have to score more just be a leader on the court for inexperienced players because we have seven juniors and one starting sophomore.”
The finale in the Upstate/Downstate Tournament was one with a lot of swings in momentum. In the first quarter, Uniondale trailing 4-0 rattled off a 7-0 run to give them their first lead of the game. After Uniondale’s run, the Mountaineers countered with a 6-0 run of their own. However, the Knights would go on a 12-2 run into the second quarter to make the score 19-12. To follow the trend, Mt. St. Michael used an 8-2 run to cut the lead to one just before the end of the half.
The second half belonged to the big man for Mt. St. Michael. That would be Stefan Chong.
“He’s 6’9” and about 7’5” when his hands are up, he averages about 10 blocks this season now,” said Utate. “When we play the big schools he’s getting a lot of big blocks and boards.”
Chong didn’t finish with 10 blocks, but he did have 5 swats (6 overall) and 6 points in the second half (6 overall), he also added 8 rebounds in the game.
Not to be lost in the fray was the play of the Knights’ Jaaz Styles who finished with a game-high 16 points and 7 rebounds, as well as Doyin Adeyeye-Akintobi (4 points, 6 rebounds) who provided big minutes and plays for Uniondale in the second half.
With results like these, Mt. St. Michael will be looking forward to the 2013 Upstate/Downstate Tournament.
Follow Bill on Twitter @MSGVBillMueller