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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Lockdown Defense Guides Health Sciences to St. Francis Christmas Tournament Title

There are quite a few reasons the Health Sciences Falcons currently sit undefeated and the No. 4 Class A team in New York State, but the most prominent one may just be their tenaciousness on the defensive end.

The Falcons locked down the St. Francis Red Raiders for most of the game, resulting in a 66-42 victory that crowned them champions of the St. Francis Christmas Tournament on Saturday night.

Early on, both sides appeared dominant on the defensive end, as Health Sciences held a narrow 10-8 lead after on quarter. A 7-2 run by the Red Raiders in the opening minutes of the second gave them a 15-12 advantage, but it was all Falcons from there.

From the point where the Red Raiders led 15-12 with 4:45 left in the second quarter, they were held to zero field goals for the following nine minutes, as Health Sciences (8-0) went on a 25-4 run to blow the game open.

“I think defense is the key to our victories,” Health Sciences coach Ty Parker said. “When we’re playing defense and we’re forcing other teams’ turnovers, that’s good for us because that’s the type of game we like to play. We like to play up and down.”

The Falcons built a 48-22 advantage by the end of the third quarter, and extended that gap to as large as 30 points in the fourth.

Their defense is allowing on average a mere 48.9 points per game so far this season.

As Parker mentioned, playing up and down is exactly what the Falcons did, as many of their buckets came in transition following a Red Raider turnover. Often, the beneficiary was senior Daciaire Riley, who led all scorers with 21 points, as passes from junior JaVaughn Jones (19 points) resulted in countless easy layups on the break.

“I got the best point guard in the league, so [Jones] is going to see me automatically. I just think we got that connection, we’ve been playing with each other for like three years,” Riley said. “Our defense was big too … it’s going too fast in the offense’s minds and they can’t keep up.”

The difference maker for the Red Raiders (2-5) was their inability to slow down the Falcons. Their plan to prevent them from running worked for a quarter, but they could only hold them at bay for so long.

“We let them get out and run, and that’s what they want to do. Once they get rolling, they just feed off it,” St. Francis coach Brian Ferris said. “Through the first quarter and a half, we made it a half court game … that didn’t let get out and run, but we weren’t able to sustain that.”

Jack Bickerstaff led the Red Raiders with nine points.

In the game that preceded St. Francis and Health Sciences, West Seneca East defeated Jamestown 57-54 in the tournament’s consolation game. Eighth-grader Jaiden Lewis had a game-high 24 points for East.

Being named to the All-Tournament team was Lewis, Jamestown’s Elijah Rojas, St. Francis’ Amiel Collins, and Health Sciences’ Riley and Jabari Spencer.

Jones took home tournament MVP honors for the Falcons.

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