Bears Defeat Lincoln in the Booster Club Tourney Final
The Briarcliff boys’ basketball team proved on Saturday night that the more things change in Bear country, the more they stay the same.
With a brand new coach strolling the sidelines and their once-formidable frontcourt gone to graduation, the defending Section One, Class B champions still managed to again capture the championship of their own holiday tourney.
Senior guard Miles Jones connected on five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 24 points to earn most valuable player honors as the Bears overcame an early seven-point deficit and went on to beat the Lincoln Lancers 57-46 in the title game of the 19th annual Briarcliff Booster Club Basketball Tournament.
“It feels really good,” said first-year head coach Nick Friedman shortly after watching his Bears emerge victorious, this time from one seat over on the bench. “I’m just proud of the guys. I mean, they’ve been able to continue a lot of the success we’ve had. Lucky for me, we had a winning culture, we had a structure that worked, and the guys have picked up right where we left off last year.”
Jones, a key contributor on last year’s experienced Briarcliff team that nearly won the state championship, erupted for 12 of his points in the second quarter when the Bears were outscoring Lincoln by a 23-8 margin to turn a three-point deficit after one period into a 34-22 halftime cushion.
“He makes me look good,” said Friedman with a laugh. “He’s a great, great, great player. He’s obsessed with basketball and it shows. Every year, he’s in the gym a ridiculous amount of time. You can just tell he puts the work in. He’s just gonna continue to get better. I’m excited for this year for him and I want him to get everything out of it, but he’s got a lot of basketball ahead of him.”
Before Jones and the rest of the Bears began to assert themselves, it was Lincoln that jumped out to an early lead. Junior forward Tyliek Crews delivered a pair of uncontested 3-point baskets from the left wing in the game’s first 90 seconds, giving the Lancers a quick 6-0 edge.
“You know, a lot of that was on me,” said Friedman, “because I should’ve had the matchups different. So they hit a couple 3s. At the same time, it’s like you’ve got to challenge ‘em (your players) because it’s our tournament, Saturday night on our home court. And they definitely responded.”
Friedman was forced to call that challenge-his-team timeout midway through the first quarter after Lincoln’s Khalique Wright scored on a put-back that stretched the Lancer lead to 11-4. The Bears returned to the court and immediately got a 17-foot pullup jumper from Jones, followed 30 seconds later by a 3-pointer from AJ Panarese. By the end of the quarter, Lincoln’s lead had been cut to 14-11.
Jones began the second quarter with a 3-point basket from the top of the key that started a six-and-a-half-minute stretch during which the Bears outscored Lincoln 20-5, building a 31-19 advantage. Another straightaway trey from Jones with 5:45 left in the half broke a 16-16 deadlock and Briarcliff never trailed again. Just before the buzzer, Jones pulled up from the top of the key again and provided his third 3-pointer of the period to send the Bears off the floor with a 12-point margin.
“I would say defensively our intensity picked up,” said Friedman about the second-quarter turnaround. “We contested all shots. They had nothing easy. And offensively we started running our stuff and playing together instead of going one on one or being back on our heels.”
A 3-pointer from the left corner by Panarese, who was named to the all-tournament team, two minutes into the third quarter increased the Briarcliff lead to 39-24. Even though the Bears only scored two more baskets the rest of the period, both by senior forward Ian Becker, they took a 14-point lead into the final quarter.
After five quick points by the Lancers to start the fourth quarter, the Bears’ Taijon Tribble, who was also voted to the all-tourney team, connected on a jump shot. But successive baskets by Lincoln’s Crews and Wright sliced the Briarcliff lead to just 45-38. Unfortunately for the Lancers, Jones stepped up again, first going coast to coast for a layup, then adding another top-of-the-key 3-pointer that built the Bears’ lead back up to 50-38 with 3:50 remaining and enabled Friedman to eventually empty his bench.
“It’s a good start,” said Friedman, whose Bears defeated Tuckahoe in the opening round on Friday and are now 3-0 this season. “But we’ve got a long way to go. We can still play a lot better. I’m just focused on getting better day to day. And I think so far we’ve done that. If we can continue to do that, then I think we can make some noise down the stretch.”
Andy is a sports editor at Examiner Media, covering seven high schools in the mid-Westchester region with a notebook and camera. He began there in the fall of 2007 following 15 years as a candid photographer for the largest school picture company in the tri-state area.
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