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Lack of finishing kick dooms Health Sciences in 2 OT loss in state semifinal

BINGHAMTON – Kameron Briggs thought it would be Health Sciences night.

It could have been considering the resolve the Falcons showed in rallying from an 11-point deficit through three quarters to take a lead late against Binghamton Seton Catholic.

Health Sciences lost its grip down at key times. The turnovers that first got the Falcons into a pickle ultimately prevented them from finishing off the Saints before their vocal home fan base Friday night at Floyd L. Maines Arena. As a result, Health Sciences dream of winning a New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association boys basketball championship fell two wins shy of its goal for the second year in a row.

The Saints marched into Saturday night's Class B final 65-61 winners in double overtime over the Section VI champion before an estimated crowd of 2,000.  The fans saw the teams battle to a 49-49 draw through regulation, and then a 56-56 stalemate through the first four-minute overtime. They finally saw Seton take the lead for good via back-to-back layups from Peter Hartrick off slick assists from Leo Gallagher.

They saw the Saints seal their spot in the state final when Gallagher caused Health Sciences' 23rd turnover of the game during the closing seconds when he knocked the ball away from Briggs near the three-point arc – leading to a tie up with the arrow pointing in Seton's direction.

"The guy from the other team caused a good defensive play and that's what caused us to lose the basketball game," said Briggs, who scored most of his game-high 23 points after halftime. "I got too close to him and I lost the ball, he grabbed the ball out of my hands and they called jump ball."

Seton (23-2) faces Mekeel Christian Academy of Section II for the state title Saturday night at 9. Mekeel advanced with a double overtime win over I-Briarcliff.

Despite the turnovers and a day in which Seton defenders limited Falcons star senior and Tennesse commit Davonte Gaines to two field goals, it still seemed Health Sciences would take flight, eventually. It finally did so when the Falcons (21-5) erased their deficit through three quarters with a 20-9 fourth-quarter blitz buoyed by the switch to an intense man-to-man defense.

With 3:21 left in the fourth quarter, Briggs' jumper gave Health Sciences its first lead of the game, 44-43. He followed that with a huge three-pointer to extend the lead to four.

The Falcons led 49-45 with 68 seconds left in regulation, but Hartrick's two free throws and Rumpel's two foul shots after that tied the game. Health Sciences turned it over via travel with 13 seconds left but got a defensive stop to extend the game.

In the first overtime, the Falcons overcame a five-point deficit during the final 2:23 to force the second session. Josiah Haygood and Davonte Gaines each drained field goals to set the stage for Briggs' three that tied the game at 56 with 19 seconds left in the first overtime. The game-tying shot came after the Falcons overcame four missed free throws in a span of 25 seconds by battling for the offensive rebound to extend the possession. The final time they did it after Tysheen Lott grabbed a rebound and quickly passed to Briggs who found nothing but net.

"I hit the shot I actually thought we were going to win because they were giving us too many chances to win," Briggs said.

It wasn't to be due to turnovers.

"Those possessions where we had back to back turnovers, big games like that you can't turn the ball over," Health Sciences coach Ty Parker said. "Seton Catholic is a good team. I have a lot of respect for them, but I think we let this one get away from us once we took the lead. We had the game right where we had it but turnovers will kill you.

"You just can't turn the ball over in big-time games."

Gallagher's 21 points led four Seton players in double figures.

Diciare Riley added 10 points for the Falcons, while Haygood had eight. The 6-foot-7 Gaines recorded 10 rebounds, nine points and four blocks in his final scholastic game before heading to prep school.

The Falcons are now 0-2 in state semifinal games. Gaines is the only significant regular who graduates. That means the future is still bright despite the tough-to-swallow finish Friday.

"I think the upside for our program is looking really good," Parker said. "Unfortunately we didn't get it done today but I believe in our younger guys."

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