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No. 2 Health Sciences takes down No. 1 Canisius to cap third annual Centercourt Classic

Lesson learned, signature victory in the books.

Now the goal for Buffalo News No. 2 large school Health Sciences is to continue getting better as the postseason approaches. Whether the Falcons will do so as the top-ranked team in the poll, that’s out of their control.

What matters most to them now is that they know they can beat one of the state’s top programs because they did just that Saturday night.

Five days after letting one slip away at Park School, Health Sciences rebounded by defeating top-ranked large school Canisius, 53-48, in the main event of the third annual Centercourt Classic at Williamsville North.

Before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000, the Falcons made sure they got the most out of their possessions. The state's third-ranked team in Class A slowed the pace of the game down to suit its liking to keep a Crusaders team that came in averaging 76.8 points per game to their lowest total of the season. The Falcons finished strong by making the plays down the stretch to take down the state’s second-ranked team in Class A, in the process earning their first win in program history over Canisius.

The last time the programs met was two years ago at the ADPRO Challenge, with the Crusaders winning by 11 points when Health Sciences was in Class B.

On Saturday, Ja’Vaughn Jones led the way with another solid all-around game as he finished with 16 points – including a key sequence when he scored back-to-back baskets in a matter of 7 seconds late in the third quarter to give the Falcons the lead for good. Teammates Jabari Spencer added 14 and Tyler Smith 12 as Health Sciences improved to 16-1.

When Canisius (17-3) pulled within two, the Falcons made the plays to pull off the victory – something they did not do in a 58-57 buzzer-beating loss at Park, which is ranked eighth in the state.

“This game was similar to the Park game,” Health Sciences coach Tyree Parker said. “We took advantage of every possession down the stretch which we didn’t do in the Park game. I think that loss helped us tremendously.”

“That loss honestly got to all of us and made us work harder,” Spencer said. “Now we just have to keep improving and getting better and better.”

Health Sciences started out fast, bolting to an early 7-0 lead. The Falcons never trailed in this one, although Canisius did fight back to tie things at 29-29 on Shane Cercone’s layup with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left in the third quarter.

Jones, a quick junior point guard, broke the knot with a layup while being fouled a minute later. He missed the free throw but followed his shot and converted a layup to make it 33-29.

“I saw the defense, nobody was boxing out the shooter,” Jones said of the sequence.

The Crusaders trailed 44-42 with under a minute left but Riley Smith drained a three-pointer to give the Falcons some cushion. After a Canisius miss, Deshaun Brown scored on a breakaway dunk to make it a seven-point game with 41 seconds left.

“I got to give the credit to our players,” Parker said. “We have a good team. Sometimes things don’t go our way but today I’m just happy they came together and got the job done.”

Dewayne Vass had 16 points, while Eric Kegler added 15 to lead the Crusaders, who have dropped two straight. They lost at Timon-St. Jude on Tuesday.

"At the end of the day we're not playing great basketball," Canisius coach Kyle Husband said. "That's on all of us, especially me to turn things back around and start playing better."

Other Centercourt games

Williamsville North only scored four points during the final 8 minutes of its boys basketball game against ECIC I rival Jamestown. But the Spartans scored the final two of the game and that wound up being the difference between victory and defeat Saturday during the opening game of the Centercourt Classic.

Scott Hopkins’ layup with 3 seconds left proved to be the game-winner as North defeated the Red Raiders, 52-51. Hopkins went up strong and finished near the basket and then watched with the rest of his teammates as Jamestown’s buzzer-beating 3-point try bounced off the backboard and the front of the rim.

“We’re always preach that you just got to keep on fighting,” Hopkins said. “Nobody gave up. We just kept pushing and luckily I was in an opportunity to hit the game-winning shot.”

The Spartans bolted to a 15-2 lead to start an carried a 34-17 lead into halftime. Jamestown (11-6) chipped away and chipped away until taking a 51-50 lead on Jaylen Butera’s putback with 22 seconds left. Will North and the Red Raiders had a tie up for a loose ball with 8 seconds left near the foul line, but the Spartans had possession and cashed in on it.

Breht Swiech led North (12-4) with a game-high 23 points.

In another close shave at the Centercourt Classic, Cardinal O’Hara (8-14), last year’s Federation state runner-up in Class B, defeated Class C state finalist Middle Early College, 59-53. Jimmie Green’s putback broke a 37-37 tie early in the fourth quarter to give O’Hara the lead for good. Green then hit a 3-pointer as the Hawks scored the first seven points of the quarter. Green finished with 15 points, while Chris Wright led the winners with 18. O’Hara has won five of its last six games. Devonte Prince of Middle College (13-5) took game-scoring honors with 22. The Kats lost for just the second time in 14 games.

After a back-and-forth first half, St. Joe’s pulled away from Lewiston-Porter in taking an 88-64 decision. The Marauders seized control late in the second quarter to take a 41-35 lead into halftime. Nolan Phillips’ three-pointer broke a 34-34 knot with 2:22 left in the quarter. He finished with 16 points. Daesean Ashley led the Marauders with 21 points and was among several Marauders who played tough defense on Lew-Port star Roddy Gayle, who finished with 14 points.

East (9-7) defeated Nichols 66-54 behind Danny Carter’s 31 points and 13 each from Jaiden Green and David Hughes. The Vikings (6-14) played without injured senior Aidan Horan, who averages 21.7 ppg. He’s been hurt since a Jan. 21 win over Hutch-Tech.

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