GLENS FALLS — At one point in the third quarter of Friday afternoon’s Class C state semifinals, Friends Academy went to a man-to-man defense on Middle Early College.
And that’s when Bri’an Brown and Kevin Briggs took over.
Senior guard Briggs scored 31 points while 6-4 classmate Brown had a triple-double (18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists) as both were near-unguardable to help lead the Kats to a 72-66 victory before an estimated 500 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
“We noticed when they went to man, we knew they couldn’t check us when we went to the hole,” Brown said. “We knew we were too fast for them, so we got to the hole every time when they were playing man.”
Middle Early College (19-5), which won the Buffalo Public Schools’ Yale Cup this season, will play for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C championship at 7:15 tonight against Section II (Albany area) champion Hoosic Valley (20-3).
“We’ve been waiting for this for a whole year – we still have to work hard, we still have one more game to go,” Briggs said. “Our coach always told us, we’re unstoppable, we’re the best two guards in the city – we just try and take advantage of it. We played our game and good results happen.”
It is the third time in five years that the Kats will play for the C title. Middle College won in 2010 in the school’s second year of existence, and it lost in the final in 2012.
“It never loses that luster – it’s just so exciting to see the look on the kids’ faces when they win,” coach Randall Rich said. “It’s just an amazing feeling for them and makes me feel good about everything we’ve done all year.
“My pregame speech was that we have the four best athletes on the court: Bri’an, Kevin, TJ and Brandon,” Rich said, referring to senior two-way contributors Tarron Scott and Brandon Jefferson.
Middle College had a 24-21 lead at halftime over the private school from Nassau County, Long Island, and it pushed its advantage to 47-39 after three quarters thanks to a three-pointer by Briggs that was set up by a kickout from Brown.
On the first possession of the fourth, another Brown kickout for a Briggs three beat the shot clock buzzer and put Middle up, 50-39. After a Friends miss, 5-6 sophomore Joseph Staton hit a three during another impactful three-point shooting performance in the playoffs (he was 4 for 6 from three for his 12 points).
The Kats maintained their lead with smart defense, good ball movement and the foul shooting of Briggs, who hit 13 of 19 at the line, all of which came in the second half. Scott had nine points and eight rebounds for the Kats.
“Gritty,” was the word Rich used to describe his team’s wins. “We’ve been fighting for every win. They’re not awesome wins, we’re not blowing teams out, they’re all close, grind-it-out, gritty wins, and I’m proud of them. They keep digging in. They refuse to lose. We lost those games early on this season, and we learned from it.”
Hoosic Valley of Section II (Albany area) defeated Section III (Syracuse area) champion Waterville, 62-58, in an entertaining game. Hoosic Valley was led by 27 points from 6-1 senior Mike Pierre while 6-4 junior John Rooney had 19.