For North Tonawanda, it was another achievement for their box of accomplishments.
For Health Sciences, it was a chance to prove their worth in front of all of Western New York.
In the end both teams made history.
Trevor Book had 25 points as A-1 champion North Tonawanda beat A-2 champ Amherst 58-51 in the Section VI Class A crossover title game.
Kameron Biggs, meanwhile, had 22 points as B-2 champion Health Sciences upset B-1 champ East Aurora, 51-43, to win the program’s first-ever Sectional crossover title in the brief five year history of the school.
Both teams will now be making their first-ever trip to the Far West Regionals this weekend at Rush-Henrietta High School in Rochester. Their opponents will be decided in Section V’s playoffs Wednesday night.
“It’s really great. We’re the first team to make it here from our school,” Jacks senior guard Vinny Tripi said. “It’s awesome to be a part of it especially my senior year.”
When NT head coach Ryan Mountain gave his players their copies of the schedule the final slot was the weekend of the state final four in Binghamton.
Seeing that everyday helped the Jacks create a vision of where they wanted to go and what they needed to do to get there.
“We all trust in the process,” Book said. “We have the talent. We have the height. We just have to trust in the process and do what our coach says.”
The Jacks definitely stayed within their game plan as their vaunted 2-3 zone gave the Tigers fits most of the night.
But the true key to the game was the basic fact that the Lumberjacks just wanted it more. They were looking to do more than just avenge one of their four regular season losses. They wanted to prove to the doubters that their win over Williamsville South for the A-1 title was not a fluke. That they were a solid, well-rounded team.
NT battled for loose balls and rebounds. They made that extra effort to create turnovers by tipping or batting down passes.
Most of all they never lost their edge. Even when the Jacks were up 15 points they played as if it was a one possession game.
“We always do that,” Tripi said. “Coach (Ryan Mountain) never lets us let up on any team. We don’t want to let them come back. We just go until the last horn goes.”
Tripi had nine points and six assists on the day while Rory Farkas had 10 points and four rebounds.
Marcellus Cooper, who transferred in from Nichols this season, was the catalyst of the Tigers offense as he also put up 25 points. But the foul line proved to be an area where opportunities where lost as the Tigers were 14 of 24 from the line. While the Tigers didn’t throw in the towel, they just couldn’t hit those momentum swing shots like that Jacks did.
Book opened the second quarter with 3-pointer that put NT up 18-15, while Tripi’s three on the first shot of the second half gave the Jacks the 36-25 lead. The Jacks also did a good job taking care of the ball as they turned the ball over just nine times as a team.
This year’s NT team win the program’s first sectional title since the 1961 team won the Class AAA title. But that team did not have a Far West Regional game to compete. So this year’s team is officially going where no Lumberjacks boys’ varsity basketball team has ever gone before.
“It’s a great group of guys,” Tripi said. “We’ve been playing together since we were little kids. We knew for a while that we were going to do big things when we got up to the varsity level. It’s great to be accomplishing those dreams.”
Health Sciences, which was ranked among the top WNY small schools all season , made a powerful statement as they followed up their first Class B-1 title with the overall championship. Briggs hit a huge shot at the end of the third that not only tied the game at 33-33, it proved to be the game changing moment that put the Falcons in charge.
“This is the first time we ever won a crossover game. It’s another championship for the team,” Briggs said. “It’s great for our school. We’re the first charter school ever to do this.”