Yeshua Lee has proved throughout the season that if he’s left open beyond the arc, there’s a better than good chance that he’s draining a shot that will damage the opponent’s chances of winning.
The 6-foot Health Sciences senior did it again Saturday night. The only difference: the stakes and the venue.
Lee drained a corner 3-pointer with 45 seconds left before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000 at Buffalo State Sports Arena to help the Falcons ward off Amherst, 53-49, in the Section VI Class A-2 boys basketball championship game.
Lee finished with just six points, but the final three gave Health Sciences a 49-44 lead in a tension-packed fourth quarter. He wasted little time firing the shot once he received the pass from Ja’Vaughn Jones in front of the Falcons’ bench. Pass, catch, shoot, money.
The championship is Health Sciences third in four years but first in Class A-2.
“I knew I had to make the shot,” Lee said. “This is my first time at Buffalo State (during the postseason). Making that shot in front of all these people was a blessing.”
“I’m proud of my guys, but it was a hard-fought battle,” Health Sciences coach Tyree Parker said. “But I tip my hat to Amherst. They played a heck of a game.”
Health Sciences plays Class A-1 champion North Tonawanda at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday at Buffalo State for the overall Class A championship and right to participate in next Saturday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Far West Regional, also at Buffalo State.
NT captured its second Class A-1 title in four years by ending West Seneca West's two-year championship reign, 64-56, in the final game of the night at Buffalo State. Dante Moultrie scored a game-high 28 points, with nine coming during an 11-0 run that enabled the Lumberjacks to take the lead for good.
"I was able to knock down my shots, everybody was moving the ball and playing good defense," Moultrie said. "We were able to stick it through. ... I've been working for this my whole varsity career."
The Class A-2 final was kind of a weird game.
At first, it looked as though Health Sciences – ranked No. 2 in the bracket but first in the Buffalo News’ large schools poll – would run away with the championship. The Falcons led by 17 midway through the second quarter as they dialed up the defensive intensity to extend a 15-9 first-quarter lead. Jones scored five of his team-high 20 points during the spree and also picked up two steals and an assist – a fastball from the top of the key to Daciaire Riley underneath the basket.
Top-seeded Amherst, playing in its eighth final in nine years, didn't go out that easily. The Tigers scored the final 13 points of the quarter to head into halftime down, 26-22.
Jaylen Stewart’s layup early in the third trimmed the deficit to two for Amherst. Seven times during the second half, the Tigers trailed by either two or three points. Health Sciences’ defense – a stingy unit all season – prevented Amherst from completing the comeback. The Falcons' defense did enough to overcome a sloppy day by an offense that came into the final averaging 72.3 points per game but seemed out of rhythm.
Nick O’Neil led the Tigers with 14 points, followed by Stewart’s 13.
West (12-10), a N0. 4 seed, led 31-26 at halftime in the A-1 final, but North Tonawanda was determined to create its happy ending. It happened with the game tied at 37, as the Jacks closed with an 11-0 run. Moultrie hit three straight 3-pointers during the blitz as 18 of his points came during the final 16 minutes.
"My first shot went in and everything after that just felt like it was going in," Moultrie said. "I just wanted to be that person that keeps energy and gets everybody up."
"Dante played like the team leader that he is," NT coach Ryan Mountain said. "He's worked relentlessly the last three years. He's built up hid body to handle the moment."
Jordan Cutter added all of his 14 points in the second half for the second-seeded Lumberjacks (17-6).
Nate Ryniec had 11 points to lead WSW, while Tyler French added 10.