Once tip off got started, both the Park Pioneers and the Health Sciences Falcons played a championship-esque game. Both squads proved to be some of the best basketball teams in Western New York.
Pioneers head coach Rich Jacob knew that their opponents were going to be a tough challenge. Health Sciences came into the game with an undefeated 14-0 record.
“You have to give credit to Health Sciences, they’re having a great year. I thought they came in well prepared and give credit to them,” Jacob said.
The first quarter saw Jacob and his team down right away as Falcons point guard JaVaughn Jones started off hitting two three-pointers. Once it got to an 11-3 lead, Park came back and ended the quarter on a 12-2 run to go up on their opponent 15-13.
Park’s center John Orogun got the crowd pumping in the second quarter with a two-handed slam dunk, in an attempt to give his team momentum heading into this first half. However, he was benched later on due to foul trouble, which set up the Falcons to take advantage of the situation. Daciare Riley put up seven points in the quarter; he finished the half with nine points. The team outscored their opponents 15-7, up on Park 28-22.
Health Sciences kept their dominance in the third quarter, getting their lead up to double digits. Jalen Bradberry then turned it up, helping Park get back into the game by driving into the hole multiple times. He finished the quarter with eight points after putting up two points in the first half. The Pioneers ended the third quarter cutting the lead down to single digits, losing 42-34.
The final quarter commenced, and when it was all said and done, made this game what many are calling the game of the year. Park was able to launch a comeback thanks to the offensive power of Bradberry and Desmond Davis.
With Health Sciences up 50-48. Bradberry tied the game up at 50 and after a defensive stop, he hit a pull-up jumper to give his team the lead.
Park held onto their lead until late in the game. Up 56-53 with 13 seconds left, Falcons’ Tyler Smith hit a three along the right wing and nailed it while being fouled. Smith went to the line, made the free throw and put his team back out in front 57-56, finishing with 16 points on the night.
After the timeout, Park came down the court and shot a three by the left corner and missed, but Bradberry was there for the offensive rebound and made his bucket with 4.2 seconds left. Falcons’ Jabari Spencer had a chance to give his team the win when he shot from three-point land and made it, but the basketball was in his hands when the clock expired. The shot did not count and Park defeated Health Sciences 58-57.
Coach Jacob thought the reasons for the comeback came from better discipline and better defense.
“It was a great basketball game on both ends. I thought, during the fourth quarter, we took a little more care with the basketball and we were able to get better shot opportunities and made a couple of changes defensively that I thought worked for us,” Jacob said.
Bradberry’s game-winning shot put the junior point guard at 18 points, 16 of them from the second half.
“I think Jalen is embracing the role of point guard. Not only do we need him and his scoring ability, but he has been working on other aspects of the game,” Jacob said. “These last couple of weeks mostly importantly, he prepared himself to take on a floor general role and I thought he did that tonight as well as hitting a couple of big shots for us down the stretch.”
The Pioneers move to 13-5 on the season with two games left in their regular season. They will face Bishop Kearney on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
As for the Falcons this game puts them at 14-1 on the year; before the loss, Monday night marked the 345th day since Health Sciences saw themselves on the losing end. You have to go back to February 23rd of last year when they fell to Lewiston-Porter in the Class A-2 quarterfinals.
Health Sciences will take on Canisius this Saturday at 6:15 p.m. during the 3rd annual Centercourt Classic.