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Washington leads Pathways to B title

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Jordan Washington spent the last year dreaming of this moment, of getting to the PSAL Class B title and hoisting a trophy with his smiling teammates he has grown up with. It was why he turned down overtures from the city’s powerhouse programs to remain at Pathways, a tiny college prep school in St. Albans he has been at since the seventh-grade.

He made sure not to waste the moment.

The 6-foot-7 sophomore scored 23 points, grabbed 20 rebounds and blocked four shots to lead second-seeded Pathways past favored top seed Frederick Douglass Academy III 59-52 in overtime in the PSAL Class B title game at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Sunday afternoon.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Pathways Coach Harold Parks said after the four-year varsity program won its first title of any kind. “That was a big-time performance.”

Particularly since the effort came against FDA III and its two Division I-bound seniors — Moussa Kone (Hofstra) and Kevin Douglas (St. Francis College) — Washington bulling his way inside. Perhaps most importantly, he made 14-of-15 free throws, including his final 13.

“I work on my free-throw shots all the time in practice,” said Washington, who has received significant interest from Villanova, Rutgers, St. John’s, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall. “When I’m not in practice, I go to the park and knock down my free throws.”

Anthony Jacobs and Jamel Homes each added nine points, the two making big plays to get Pathways back into it after trailing by as many as 10 in the second half. Playing in his future gym in front of his future coach — St. Francis College’s Glenn Braica — Douglas scored 23 points and Kone had 16 and seven blocks for FDA (27-2).

Jacobs, a senior point guard, nearly won the crown himself at the end of regulation with a tip-in, but the shot hits every part of the rim before bouncing out. It didn’t matter as the Trailblazers (25-3) and Washington dominated the extra session.

“He is a fighter,” Kone said of Washington. “I know [when] he fights he is going to grab [rebounds] until the ball goes in the basket.”

Washington started the final four minutes with an offensive rebound and two free throws, followed with a block of Kone and an acrobatic scoop in the lane in which he avoided the charge. After a Kone basket, Washington scored again on a dish from Jacobs, icing the title.

“It felt so great to help my teammates out, they believed in me,” he said. “They got the ball to me.”

Though he wasn’t at his best most of the first three quarters, Washington never lost his confidence or poise. He kept on banging inside, punishing FDA even when his shot was rejected. He got Kone and Douglas in foul trouble and opening it up for Jacobs, Holmes and freshman Izaha Johnson, who made a few clutch shots.

“If you keep getting pounded by 6-7, 250 it starts hurting after a while,” Peaks said, laughing at his own joke. “That’s what your best player is supposed to do; your best player is supposed to will you to victory. He has that innate ability from playing so much basketball.”

Washington gave him plenty of reasons to smile. After last year’s second-round exit, Washington promised his coach he would return and lead his teammates to the ‘B’ final. When he was asked why he turned to Pathways, Washington always said he wanted to win a title for “his school.”

As the final seconds ticked away, it was fitting Washington dribbled it out in front of the school’s jubilant fans and his ecstatic teammates.

“I never threw a ball that high in my life,” he said.

Washington later said he planned to return to Pathways next year to win another city title. Next year is still a long way off and the Trailblazers have the New York State Federation Class B tournament in Albany to prepare for. They meet Catholic state champion Salesian in the semifinals March 25 at 5 p.m.

“This means our program is coming to fruition,” Peaks said. “We started the program to help build young men. This will help show our players you can overcome adversity. We faced a lot of adversity today.”

Updated 10:53 am, October 12, 2011
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