Tracking down information on upcoming opponents in the state tournament is never easy. But in one of his late-night searches online this week, Briarcliff coach Cody Moffett discovered an important attribute of Center Moriches simply by matching up boxscores.
“It seemed like every game they’d come out and go up 21-5 or 25-7 in the first quarter,” Moffett said. “They’d blitz you and end games quickly.”
Moffett and Bears reversed the script on the two-time Long Island champions on Saturday. Briarcliff scored 21 points in the opening quarter, blowing open a 10-point lead and riding it to a 62-49 win in the NYSPHSAA Class B Regional Championship at Pace University.
Briarcliff secured its first ever berth in the state final four and will take on Section 2 champion Mekeel Christian Academy in the semifinals on Friday at 6:45 p.m. at Floyd Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
“The leadership on this team is fantastic,” Moffett said. “I’ve I haven’t had to use my clipboard much at all this season. That’s the result of players coaching themselves and coaching eachother. This a product of all the work they’ve put in.”
Jack Ryan scored 10 of his 17 points in the first quarter to kick-start another balanced effort for the Bears.
“We’ve seen that they’ve come out hot against teams,” Briarcliff senior Spencer McCann said. “We really wanted to lock in first. Defense always. Offense will come.”
Led by McCann’s ability to block and alter shots, Center Moriches never got into a rhythm offensively and played from behind a double-digit deficit almost the entire way. McCann continued to be an under-the-radar stat-stuffer in the postseason, posting 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Jackson Gonseth scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The 6-foot-6 senior also connected on both of his 3-point attempts for the Bears, who were 5 of 11 from behind the arc in the first half.
A.J. Panarese, a sophomore, scored 10 points, all of which seemed to come at crucial times. Miles Jones had six rebounds and six assists, and Tucker Wexler again gave the Bears important minutes off the bench. The senior had six rebounds, four offensive, as Briarcliff controlled the glass.
“(A.J.) has been our silent hero all year,” McCann said. “He’s been locking down defensively and he’s grown exponentially. He was a big help again today.
“Tucker has also got a lot of passion for this. He wants this really bad. He’ll do anything we need him to do.”
Briarcliff takes a 14-game winning streak into a week of practice and a trip up to Binghamton on Friday. The Bears, who have only one loss all year to a Class B opponent, are a veteran team eager to seize the opportunity.
“We’ve always had a goal of state championship,” McCann said. “Our first goal was always a Gold Ball and we’ve stressed that a lot. But state title… two wins away. It’s closer than any team here has ever been.”
NYSPHSAA Class B Regional Final
at Pace University
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