Health Sciences boys basketball coach Ty Parker learns something about his team every game.
The wins are nice confidence-boosters, but the losses in particular have shown Parker that he can’t have his team play its preferred brand of full-court pressure for an entire 32 minutes.
The reasoning is simple: Parker needs his top players on the court instead of on the bench in foul trouble.
That doesn’t mean Health Sciences completely abandons what makes it the top-ranked small school in Western New York. Parker just picks his spots.
In the overall Class B championship against the No. 2 small school in WNY Tuesday night, that was immediately after halftime.
The Falcons (20-4) turned on the defensive intensity over the final 16 minutes to overcome an 18-10 halftime deficit and grind out a 36-34 slugfest against Olean (22-2) to earn the program’s second straight trip to the Far West Regionals.
“We had to change our style of play up, and that takes an adjustment,” Parker said at Buffalo State. “To have the kids that are used to doing things for so long to adjust, I give credit to my guys. They believe in the process. They trusted what I was telling them, and it worked tonight.”
Olean slowed the pace of play down to its tempo the entire game, never trailing in the first half while getting out to leads of 12-7 after the first quarter and 18-10 heading into the locker room.
“We were more emphasizing on defense than offense,” Parker said. Olean “coach (Jeff) Anastasia, he’s a Hall of Fame coach, I got nothing but respect for him and his team. Those guys are a well-coached team, so I was expecting they were going to come out, they were going to play hard, but I told our guys, ‘We just gotta keep fighting. We got to stay in the game.’”
The Falcons came out of the break on a 12-4 run, sparked by a handful of steals, to tie the game at 22-22 on a Davonte Gaines (eight points) jumper from the baseline with 3:05 left in the third quarter.
After Olean standout Mike Schmidt (15 points) scored on a runner in the lane, Health Sciences’ Tayvion Nelson (nine points) scored four straight points to give the Falcons their first lead, 26-24, with 30.4 seconds left. Schmidt answered again, this time with a three-pointer with four seconds on the clock to give Olean a 27-26 advantage heading into the final frame.
END 3Q: Olean 27, Health Sciences 26.
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) March 6, 2018
Health Sciences’ Kameron Briggs (eight points) scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, and Schmidt drained his second trey of the game to tie it at 30-30 with 5:23 left. Gaines made it 32-30 on the next possession, and the Falcons held the lead for good.
Briggs forced a pair of steals in the final 19 seconds to preserve the win. He stole an inbounds pass coming out of an Olean timeout and was fouled. He made the first of two free-throw attempts to put Health Sciences up, 36-34, with 17.8 seconds left.
On the ensuing Olean possession, he poked the ball loose from Schmidt at the top of the three-point arc and forced a jump ball, giving the Falcons possession.
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) March 7, 2018
“Kam played a hell of a game,” Parker said. “Like I always told our guys, defense wins championships, and that personified it right there with those two steals by Kameron Briggs. Nobody would’ve known how the game would’ve went if he wouldn’t have got that. They might’ve won the game, so I’m going to look at it like Kam won the game for us right there.”
Tysheen Lott added eight points for the Falcons, including both of the team’s three-pointers. Olean’s Matt Droney was strong inside with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Health Sciences will return to Buffalo State Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. Far West Regional matchup against Greece Odyssey (17-7), which won its first Section V title Monday after coming into the postseason as the No. 5 seed.
“We’re trying to get back to Binghamton,” Parker said. “We got unfinished business there.”