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Health Sciences shows mental toughness in regional triumph

BATAVIA – Players have to be mentally tough to deal with Health Sciences coach Tyree Parker. He challenges his team at every practice. He schedules the toughest nonleague opponents throughout the year.

But Parker is hard on them for a reason. He's hard on them for times like the Class B Far West Regional on Saturday.

Health Sciences (21-4) overcame nine-point deficits and foul trouble to three of its key players to down Section V's Mynderse, 50-47, in front of a spirited sellout crowd at Genesee Community College.

"This journey isn't easy," Parker said. "When you're going down this journey trying to get to the state championship tournament, it's rough. You've got to be battle-tested. You've got to be mentally tough. You're going to face challenges.

"Our guys, they came in, they were focused, they were ready to play. I can't be more proud of them. This is one of the best days of my life besides having my kids. I love those dudes."

The Falcons' big three of sophomore Kameron Briggs and juniors Davonte Gaines and Tyron Lott have led the team in scoring for the majority of the season, but it was Wize Threat, the lone senior starter, who made the difference against Mynderse.

Threat scored 12 points, the same as Gaines (11 rebounds) and Lott, but it was when he knocked down his four three-pointers that made the difference.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Health Sciences 50, V-Mynderse 47]

Seven points from Briggs, four from Gaines and Threat's first three helped the Falcons get out to a 14-11 lead after one quarter. Gaines picked up his second foul early in the second quarter, one that Mynderse led the majority of. Lott hit two free throws with 1.6 seconds left to bring the Falcons' deficit to 26-23 heading into the locker room.

The second half did not start off well for Health Sciences. The Blue Devils took nine-point leads, 32-23 two minutes in and 39-30 with about 2:30 left. Threat answered both times with his two threes of the quarter, the second of which started a 9-2 run with Briggs, Gaines and Tayvion Nelson on the bench with four fouls apiece. That brought the score to 41-39 heading into the fourth quarter.

There was no scoring for the first 2:03 of the final frame until Gaines, who recently checked in, muscled in a layup while being fouled. He missed the free throw so the game remained tied, 41-41. Gaines then had a steal, a block and forced a jump ball over the next few possessions, the last of which led to Threat's fourth and final three to take a 46-44 lead with three minutes left. Health Sciences got key stops and didn't trail the rest of the way.

"Kam got in foul trouble so I had to shoot more," Threat said. "I don't really shoot a lot, but I had to make big shots today."

"Wize had an up-and-down season," Parker said. "There were times where he got to questioning himself, saying that I might want to go with somebody else. But I told him I'm not doing that. You're a senior leader, I'm confident in you and your time's going to come. That time was today."

Other than Threat's 12 points, the other 38 came from juniors and sophomores. Those underclassmen grew up right before Parker's eyes on Saturday.

"They've never been on a platform like this before. This is all new to them," said Parker, who as an assistant coach at Middle College has been part of deep playoff runs before. "At the end of the day they're still kids, but as a 15-, 16-year-old kid and you reach adversity like that, that speaks to their character.

"I always tell them, 'basketball, sports, it's just like life. You have tough times. You reach adversity. But at the end of the day, how you handle it defines you as a person.' That's what we did tonight. We faced that adversity. We hit it dead-on and they grew up. They had to grow up. You are all sophomores and juniors, but you have to play like seniors to get it done. They did it. I'm proud of them."

The Falcons won their first sectional title on Tuesday. Now they'll head to Binghamton next weekend for their first appearance in the state Final Four.

"It feels good," Lott said. "It doesn't get any better than this."

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