Maybe, just maybe, the somewhat new kid on the block could have sneaked up on St. Mary’s of Lancaster had Health Sciences Charter not entered Wednesday night’s showdown ranked second among small schools in Western New York.
With a win over reigning Section VI Class C champion Middle Early College and an 8-1 record, there was no chance the upstart Falcons were going to catch last year’s Monsignor Martin Association Small School runner-up off guard – especially with Takal Molson of the Lancers being quite familiar with players in their lineup.
Host St. Mary’s put on a clinic before a standing-room-only crowd as its defense took away lanes to the basket, caused turnovers that led to easy baskets and forced Health Sciences into far too many poor outside shots en route to a 68-37 victory.
Molson scored 15 of his game-high 25 points during the Lancers’ 38-9 first half, while Cameron Dunning added 11 points and Kayson Hill nine points and six boards.
That halftime score is not a misprint.
Who saw that coming in a game featuring two small schools ranked in the top four in the area? Neither coach expected that, yet St. Mary’s Paul Rath is happy to accept a win like that.
“We got some baskets early and we had a lot of stops,” he said. “We limited them to one shot. … We put the ball in the basket. It was just hard defensive pressure. We were playing in man but sagging down. The boys played hard. I give all the credit to them.”
Especially Molson, who along with Dunning provided Rath with a pregame scouting report on the Falcons.
“I knew most of the players on that side,” said Molson, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. “I knew they didn’t shoot that well,” from outside, so he told his teammates “to collapse and force them to make a few jumpers.”
Health Sciences didn’t, fueling the Lancers’ transition game.
The Falcons trailed 8-7 late in the first quarter when Daquan Hunt canned a free throw with 1:21 left in the frame. That provided the spark igniting St. Mary’s 30-2 run to close the half.
Molson ended the first quarter with a three-pointer to make it 12-7.
Dunning made a pair of layups during an 11-0 run interrupted by Tyron Lott’s layup with 5:51 left in the second. Who knew that would be the Falcons’ final points of the quarter?
“We were moving and grooving,” Rath said.
Molson gave the St. Mary’s faithful more reason to dance with back-to-back dunks in a 29-second span, including a putback jam that made everyone forget he had missed an easier dunk in transition earlier in the quarter.
“I had to get that one back,” Molson said. “Coach always says defense leads to great offense. I haven’t been part of a run like that. It was crazy.”
Call it a hard lesson to learn for Health Sciences, which came in averaging 81 points per game, but one it hopes to benefit from down the road. The Falcons start two freshmen and a sophomore, leading scorer Davonte Gaines, who was held to nine points Wednesday – 10 points below his season average. Health Sciences, which gave East scares each of the past two postseasons during the Panthers’ runs to sectional titles, still has the look of a team that could be dangerous in the future.
“We started out sluggish,” said coach Tyree Parker, who served as an assistant at Middle College for five seasons before taking over the Falcons. “We weren’t getting into our sets, a lot of one-on-one and that comes with being a young team.
“That’s why we’re playing these games … we’re just trying to get better. This is going to help us grow for sectionals.”
At the moment, this helps St. Mary’s (9-1) go into its Friday 7:30 p.m. home contest against News co-No. 1 Large School Park with some momentum. The Lancers prefer to go about their business unnoticed but if they play more games like Wednesday’s it’ll be hard not to take notice of them.