(Tyron Lott & Health Sciences are headed to the Class B Far West Regional/Photo: Harry Scull,BuffNews)
North Tonawanda 58, Amherst 51
On Saturday night, North Tonawanda chased a lead against Williamsville South for most of the game, before erasing a seven-point deficit with three minutes left to win by six and become Section VI Champions. But in Tuesday's regional-qualifying game with Amherst, the Jacks were the ones making their opponent play chase all evening, except North Tonawanda was not to be caught.
"Amazing things happen when nobody cares who gets the credit," North Tonawanda coach Ryan Mountain said.
Behind a 19-point first half that resulted in a game-high 25 points from Trevor Book, the Jacks took an eight-point lead to halftime and then came out of the break playing even better. Book drilled four 3-pointers during his first half eruption and added the type of traditional three-point play that only goes when you're in the zone. Book was most definitely in the zone...and so was the guy dishing passes to the team.
Vincent Tripi scored nine points in the win, but it was his passing that had me smiling from my seat. Particularly during a third quarter surge where the Jacks collected some points in the transition game, it was Tripi setting his teammates up with flair. One no-look pass led to another. Then swing passes out to open shooters on the wing. He began to look like the most confident player on the floor and it was as if the game slowed down for him as he continued to set up his teammates. He was also responsible for giving his team a spark to start the third quarter by sticking two quick 3-pointers to begin the half.
Rory Farkas added 10 points in the win for the Jacks, who took their largest lead of the evening into the final stanza with a 15-point advantage. The Tigers made a run to get the game back within eight points to start the fourth quarter, but North Tonawanda got a pair of scores from Alex Quinn to go back up by 12 points, 57-45, with under two minutes to play.
Marcellus Cooper led Amherst with 25 points, while Da'Shawn Hines and Daesean Ashley each scored 10 points.
North Tonawanda advances to the Class A Far West Regional against the winner between the #1 ranked team in NYS Class A, Irondequoit and Wayne. The regional game will be played at Rush-Henrietta High School and tip is scheduled for 6 pm.
Prior to the game, the O'Bryan family was on hand to be honored in memory of Archie O'Bryan, who passed away in the fall, for his contributions to high school basketball in WNY. North Tonawanda coach Ryan Mountain was fortunate enough to learn from O'Bryan when he was getting started in the profession.
"Archie O'Bryan affected this game because he gave me the confidence to coach varsity basketball," Mountain said.
Amherst 15 - 10 - 9 - 17 = 51
N.Tonawanda 15 - 18 - 16 - 9 = 58
North Tonawanda: Trevor Book 25, Rory Farkas 10, Vincent Tripi 9, Alex Quinn 6, Zack Woodard 4, Brandon Casterline 2, Patrick Milbrand 2
Amherst: Marcellus Cooper 25, Daesean Ashley, 10 Da'Shawn Hines 10, Brian Fulford 12, Richard Kay 2, Jordan Barr 2
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Health Sciences 51, East Aurora 43
For three quarters, Health Sciences versus East Aurora played out just the way you would expect a game to go between the top two ranked small schools in WNY. But over the final eight minutes, the Falcons emerged as the better team and earned their first trip to the Class B Far West Regionals in program history.
"Today is a testament to the hard work the guys have been putting in at the gym," Health Sciences coach Ty Parker said. "I'm happy for the school, the fans and mostly our players."
Kameron Briggs scored a game-high 22 points on the evening and led Health Sciences with a steady dose of long range bombs. Briggs connected on six occasions from beyond the arc, with four of those coming in the second half. Tyron Lott added 14 points in the win and scored three of his baskets in the fourth quarter when the Falcons began to pull away.
"Today they showed their heart and that they believed in each other," Parker said.
Tied at 33-33 heading into the fourth quarter, Nick Montgomery scored for East Aurora to give his team a two-point lead. But the Falcons defense clamped down during the remainder of the final frame and never allowed another field goal by the Blue Devils, giving up only free throws the rest of the way. A 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter gave Health Sciences the eight-point advantage they would ultimately win by.
"We picked up each other," Parker said. "We have a team full of superstars, they all believe in each other and that's what is winning us ball games."
Cal McTigue led the Blue Devils with a team-high 16 points, while Montgomery finished with 13 points.
Health Sciences will play Mynderse on Saturday at Rush-Henrietta High School for the right to advance to the Class B state final four in Binhamton. Tip is set for 1:45 pm.
Health Sci 12 - 12 - 9 - 18 = 51
East Aurora 13 - 12 - 8 - 10 = 43
Health Sciences: Kameron Briggs 22, Tyron Lott 14, Davonte Gaines 9, Josiah Haygood 5, Tayvion Nelson 1
East Aurora: Cal McTigue 16, Nick Montgomery 13, Josh Denz 9, Joe Montgomery 3