Washington leads title team

By Mike Smollins

Jordan Washington has had his fair share of ups and downs, but on Sunday he reached an all-time high.

The 6-foot-7 junior was key in aiding top-seeded Pathways, of Hollis, to its second-straight title with a 67-50 victory over No. 3 Newcomers in the PSAL Class B boys’ basketball championship game at CCNY in Harlem by putting up a game-high 28 points.

“It feels so good to win back-to-back championships,” Washington said.

Washington’s work ethic was never more prominent than in the second half of Sunday’s game. With his team’s lead trimmed down from an 11-point advantage to just two points in the second quarter, Washington knew it was time for him to step up in the second half. Washington answered the call, converting 18 of his points in the final two frames.

“We were a little nervous, but we got the win,” Washington said. “My coach went in the locker room and said, ‘Ya’ll gotta get Jordan the ball.’ So I took command of the ball and started scoring every bucket.”

While Washington led the Trailblazers (23-4) in points and also contributed 12 rebounds, Sam Annorh Jr. and Izaha Jackson both put up 12 points for Pathways. After gaining a nine-point lead in the first quarter, Newcomers went on a 12-2 run late in the second quarter to put the score at 28-26 at the half before Washington exploded the rest of the way at the urging of Coach Harold Peaks.

“We needed that from [Jordan] today,” Peaks said. “We needed to exploit our biggest advantage and that was him.”

Washington, who missed a significant amount of the season due to academic reasons, used his size to his advantage and lifted the team to victory.

Newcomers (19-1) had a good showing in the program’s first-ever trip to the finals and was led by junior Cristian Zapata, who put up a team-high 16 points. Senior point guard Larry Baez had 13 points and junior forward Jose Fernandez had 12.

“It was an excellent opportunity and brought a lot of school spirit to our school,” Lions Coach Joseph DePrimo said. “We just didn’t have an answer for their big man, he was going through two or three guys at a time. This season was a huge success.”

DePrimo has coached Newcomers for seven years and this was its finest season to date in the 15-year history of the basketball program. Newcomers went undefeated in its division this season and lost for the first time all season Sunday. It is a school with an enrollment of just 900, where students learn English as a second language.

While Newcomers fell, Pathways now advances to the New York State Federation tournament in Albany with a semifinals matchup set for Friday against Long Island Lutheran.

If the Trailblazers fall, it could be his last game at the Queens school. The 18-year-old Washington said he may play at South Kent prep school in Connecticut next year, though he’d still be eligible to play in the PSAL.

Washington is also highly sought after as he’s received college scholarship offers from schools such as Louisville, Miami and Villanova. While the future remains unclear for the star, he’s content with just enjoying the championship win.

“It was so important [to win back-to-back championships],” Washington said. “I wanted it for my seniors, they’re gonna go to states and do what they gotta do.”

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