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Health Sciences, North Tonawanda reign victorious in Class A championships

Head coach Ty Parker and players on the Health Sciences Boys Basketball team will admit that their performance against Amherst in the Section VI Class A2 title game wasn’t their best.

But, it still got the job done.

The Falcons fended off a resilient Tigers squad to claim their third sectional crown in the past four years and first in Class A2, defeating Amherst 53-49 on Saturday at Buffalo State College.

“This wasn’t one of our better games, but it shows the character of our team,” Parker said. “I always taught them defense and free throws win championships, and it boiled down to making stops and making free throws to win the game.”

It appeared early on that the Falcons would be running away with a title, as a 16-0 run spanning over parts of the first two quarters had them in business with a 26-9 lead midway through the second frame. The Tigers didn’t go down easy, however, as a 13-0 run in the final 3:22 of the half had them trailing by just four, 26-22, at the break.

The game was tightly contested the rest of the way to the delight of a standing-room-only crowd in attendance. A thrilling fourth quarter included a 3-point play from the Falcons’ Ja’Vaughn Jones (game-high 20 points) that was promptly answered by two critical 3-pointers from Amherst’s Nick O’Neil (14 points).

However, the game-changing play came courtesy of Falcons senior Yehshua Lee.

Lee tallied three of his six total points off a corner trey with 45 seconds to go to put Health Sciences up 49-44, a lead they would protect the rest of the way.

“Yaya [Lee], he’s been hitting big threes for us the last four or five games,” Parker said. “He’s a shooter, and I tell him: if you feel comfortable, shoot the ball … and today he did it in the fourth quarter and that was a big shot.”

Despite the Falcons not garnering a lead of more than six points in the second half, they never trailed during that span.

“We just trust the process, whatever the coach says, that’s what goes,” Jones said. “Throughout the playoffs, as we keep going, we got to keep that same mindset.”

Lumberjacks’ third quarter burst lifts them over West Seneca West

In the final game of “Championship Saturday” at Buffalo State, it seemed as though both the West Seneca West Indians and North Tonawanda Lumberjacks were just looking for that spark to give their team the edge.

Well, the Jacks found it, and it came courtesy of senior Dante Moultrie.

Moultrie’s three third quarter treys and game-high 28 points led North Tonawanda to a 64-56 victory in the Section VI Class A1 title game.

“Dante played like the team leader that he is, he’s a warrior,” Lumberjacks coach Ryan Mountain said. “He’s worked relentlessly on his game over the last three years. He’s built up his body to handle the moment.”

After a back-and-forth first half continued into the third quarter, as with three minutes to play in the stanza, both teams sat deadlocked at 37-37. Then, Moultrie nailed a 3-pointer to give North Tonawanda the advantage. Soon thereafter, he sank another. And another. Finally, at the buzzer, a layup from Noah Fox (10 points) capped off an 11-0 Jacks run that completely flipped the script.

“My first shot went in, and after that, my teammates were able to get me open – everything after that just felt like it was going in,” Moultrie said. “In an environment like this, the crowd gets going, they go on a run, its easy to just get down … I just wanted to be that person who keeps the energy, gets everybody up, because that’s the only way you can win.”

A desperate comeback effort from the Indians, spearheaded by senior Nate Ryniec (11 points) managed to cut the North Tonawanda to six late in the game, but that was as close as they’d come.

14 points, all coming in the second half, from NT’s Jordan Cutter aided in protecting their advantage.

“Give West Seneca credit, they played with good composure,” Mountain said. “At halftime, we said enough of the finesse, toughen up, go get them and stick to our philosophy: wear them down over four quarters, and ultimately, they wore down.”

Now, the focus of both Health Sciences and North Tonawanda will turn to eachother, as the two sides will meet in the Class A crossover game to determine which team will advance to the Far West Regionals.

The matchup is set for 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday at Buffalo State.

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