McKinley Tech prides itself on being a rigorous academic school, and Christian Lutete felt the brunt of it the last few days in preparation for next week’s midterm exams in AP Government, AP Literature and calculus.
The standout forward for the Trainers’ basketball team was in limbo all week, splitting his time between practice and study halls after school, and when he went home, it was the same. He’d study for an hour before heading to his basement to work on ball-handling drills, knowing full well what he was up against in Cardozo’s quick guards on Friday night.
Lutete is more into projects than exams, he said, but Friday night against the Clerks he welcomed the stiff test. Lutete rose to the occasion during a grueling game, hitting five three-pointers en route to 30 points to lift McKinley Tech to a 73-68 win over Cardozo in an important DCIAA matchup in Northeast.
Lutete scored 18 points in the first half for the Trainers (11-5, 4-1 DCIAA), who withstood a furious rally by the Clerks (8-4, 3-3) in the fourth quarter. Guard Kieron Williams added 14 for McKinley Tech, which stayed within a game of first place in the DCIAA with its third straight win.
“It was a little tough,” said Lutete. “In the fourth quarter they tried to key on me, so I had to trust my teammates. So I’m glad they pulled me through.”
It’s been a long road for Lutete. Two years ago he was buried at the end of the St. John’s bench and left to wonder what direction his basketball career was going. He transferred into McKinley for his junior season, and has flourished since. He had 12 points in the third quarter, including a one-minute sequence late in the frame that spoke to his versatility. After hitting a methodical pull-up jumper that has become his signature, Lutete grabbed a defensive rebound on the ensuing possession, and took the ball coast-to-coast to convert a three-point play. Two possessions later, he shook his defender with two dribbles and drained his fifth three-pointer of the night, and the Trainers had opened up a 63-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Cardozo, which has lost three straight since opening the season 8-1, stayed close behind 30 points from junior Thomas Jackson, and the Clerks engineered a furious rally late in the game. Cardozo used a 22-5 run in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to pull to 68-66, but the Clerks scored just one field goal in the final two minutes and McKinley Tech went 5 for 8 from the free throw line to seal the win.
“It’s a cycle: you beat them one way, you beat them another way,” Lutete said. “[That stretch] showed me I can score in a variety of ways.”
It was a numbing stretch for the Trainers, said senior guard Anthony Carthen. McKinley Coach Ali Foster called numerous timeouts to try and quell the run, and Lutete said Foster got after him several times. It was all part of the process during a stressful week.
“Christian, he is the only person I know who can get yelled at, and come back down the court and hit a three,” said Carthen, who finished with 12 points. “Nobody has the attitude and the resolve than Christian does.”