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Middle Early College rides defense to victory in overall Class C final

Randolph achieved its goal, but it still wasn’t enough to deny Middle Early College of theirs.

That’s because when it came time to "D" up, the Kats proved to be in perfect sync. Their reward – a trip to Rochester on Saturday.

Yale Cup I champion Middle Early College is the overall Class C champion of Section VI.

The Class C-1 champion Kats secured the crown Tuesday night by defeating C-2 titlist Randolph, 47-30, before an estimated crowd of more than 1,500 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.

Middle College received double-figure scoring from three players and had four other players net points. But the key to the Kats punching their ticket to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association quarterfinals/Far West Regionals was the play of their defense.

After the Cardinals took a 17-8 lead just 16 seconds into the second quarter, Middle College held the Cards scoreless for the rest of the period. The Kats then came within 42.3 seconds of pitching a shutout in the third quarter.

In total, Middle College went on a 26-0 run over a span of 15 minutes, 1.7 seconds to advance to regionals for the first time since winning the state title in 2016.

“There’s no secret. We play as a team and always execute on defense and that’s what we strive on,” said junior Keyunte Jones, who finished with 11 points, six and two steals. “As a team we always work on defense first, offense second.”

“It was a great stretch defensively,” winning coach James Kane said. “We practice that every day. ... We just executed and it was great to see.”

Middle Early College faces the still-to-be-determined Section V champion at 11 a.m. Saturday at Greece Athena High School. The winner advances to the state Final Four the following weekend in Binghamton.

This is a first for Middle College during the Kane coaching era. He was JV coach when the Kats last won states under Randall Rich.

Randolph star Tyler Hind scored eight of his team's 15 points in the opening quarter. Then the Kats’ box-and-one defense put the clamps on the junior point guard, who scored 38 in the Class C-2 final against Bennett. He was limited to 15 Tuesday.

“I just stopped him from getting the ball,” Jones said. “I executed my goal and as a team we worked together and executed our overall goal.”

“It was so physical out there,” Randolph coach Kevin Hind said. “We just didn’t score enough points to win.”

Coach Hind’s goal was to limit Middle College, a battle-tested team that faces Class A- and B-sized schools during the season, to 50 points. The Cardinals did just that, thinking it’d be enough to advance to regionals past an old friend who has gotten the better of them in past postseasons.

It wasn’t.

The decisive run fittingly began on a steal and layup by Jamond Jones, who produced 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Ja’kari Nettles followed with a layup. Keyunte Jones drained a long two. Jamond followed with a three-pointer that gave the Kats the lead for good.

MEC kept scoring, and the Cardinals kept missing. Randolph, which shot 6 for 12 in the first quarter made just 5 of 32 the rest of the way.

Keith Brown finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for Middle College. Nettles also had 11 rebounds.

“It’s exciting,” Kane said. “We knew if we worked hard we could put ourselves in position to be here and that’s what we did.”

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