It's no secret Health Sciences came into this boys basketball season with great expectations.
One look at the Falcons' nonleague schedule spoke volumes as they faced some of the best teams in the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association, along with teams expected to contend for Section VI and V postseason championships.
With a trip to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association tournament hanging in the balance entering the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's overall Section VI Class B final, Health Sciences seized the day in a game that featured the top two-ranked small schools in Western New York.
The Falcons are heading to the Far West Regionals for the first time.
The News' No. 2-ranked school and the Class B-2 champion secured the overall Section VI Class B crown by pulling away from B-1 champion and No. 1 East Aurora 51-43 before an estimated 2,000 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Kameron Briggs scored a game-high 22 points as his on-target shooting from beyond the arc not only enabled the Falcons to overcome and early deficit, it enabled them to soar to the lead for good after the teams entered the final quarter deadlocked at 33-33.
After the final handshake, an excited Health Sciences assistant said multiple times "we're the best team in Buffalo, we're the best team in Buffalo."
The Falcons most certainly are in Class B, as they return to action against Section V champion Mynderse at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Rush-Henrietta High School.
"It's great for our school," Briggs said. "I just want to get that ring."
"Today is a testament to the hard work the guys have been putting in at the gym," winning coach Tyree Parker said. "I'm happy for the school, the fans and mostly our players. … Today they showed their heart and that they believed in each other."
The second half featured six lead changes and four ties.
Briggs' fifth three-pointer of the game broke the game's final tie, giving Health Sciences the lead for good, 40-37, with 4 minutes, 7 seconds left. The trey was part of a 12-2 blitz that Briggs capped with his sixth and final three of the night that made it 47-39 with 1:51 left.
To think Briggs' status was in doubt for this game due to an ankle injury suffered in Saturday's Class B-2 victory over Lackawanna – a triumph that secured its first Section VI title.
He showed no effects of that ailment – especially with the game on the line – as two days of not practicing proved to be the best medicine.
"Blessing to God, his ankle healed and he shot lights out," Parker said.
The Falcons (20-4) played a schedule that included regular-season Monsignor Martin co-champions St. Francis and Bishop Timon-St. Jude along with games against Class A-1 champion North Tonawanda and last year's Section V Class C champion Early College of Rochester. They also faced four others who reached the semifinals of postseason tournaments.
"I've always said you learn how to win by taking a loss," Parker said. "If I had played a weaker schedule, we probably wouldn't have won this game.
"We put pressure on ourselves. We have a very talented team. We played a very tough schedule. Everyone said we couldn't win the big one."
The Falcons made believers of those people and did so by overcoming a wobbly start and some offensive struggles with teamwork – especially on defense, and the hot shooting of Briggs.
The 5-foot-10 sophomore helped steady Health Sciences after it fell behind early, 6-0, and seemed to be a bit nervous playing in the biggest game to date in school history.
They calmed down after a timeout, with Briggs draining two three-pointers in a 39-second span to get Health Sciences back in the game.
The Blue Devils (20-4) took a 19-14 lead early in the second quarter on a nice drive and one-handed jam by Cal McTigue, who scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the first half. The Falcons rallied to tie on a Tyron Lott layup and took leads of 20-19 and 24-22. EA went into the half leading by one after a steal and layup by Joe Montgomery and a free throw by Nick Montgomery.
Health Sciences slowed an East Aurora team that scored 75 points in the Class B-1 final by mixing in some man-to-man along with some half-court trapping. The 6-6 Davonte Gaines also did a good job protecting the rim.
Tyron Lott finished with 14 points, while Gaines had nine and Josiah Haygood five for the Falcons.
"We picked up each other," Parker said. "We have a team full of superstars. They all believe in each other and that's what's winning us ball games."