GLENS FALLS -- Kevin Briggs and Bri’an Brown were at the Glens Falls Civic Center two years ago as role players.
Now starters for Middle Early College of Buffalo, Briggs and Brown put their own stamp on the Kats’ State Boys Basketball Tournament legacy — in emphatic fashion.
Deadlocked with Friends Academy at 24-24 early in the third quarter, the two seniors put the team on their shoulders in the second half as the Kats pulled away for a 72-66 Class C semifinal victory on Friday. Briggs and Brown combined for 49 points.
“We figured we’re the seniors, so we’ve got to take this game over,” said Briggs, who scored 27 of his game-high 31 points after halftime. “We had to show the young guys how they’re supposed to play; we’re like the role models to them. So we had to play hard, play defense, and we won the game.”
MEC, formerly known as OTC Middle College, reached the state final for the third time in five years, winning in 2010, but falling short in 2012. The Kats (19-5) will face either Hoosic Valley or Waterville for the state Class C title on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
“I can’t say enough about Bri’an and Kevin,” MEC coach Randall Rich said. “Kevin was on fire today, he started a little slow, but after that he picked it up and just rolled.
“Kevin’s and Bri’an’s goal since they’ve been juniors was to get back here — they want to win it on their own team, have it be their signature team,” Rich added. “This is their team and they put their stamp on it today, and I’m proud of them.”
“Our coaches told us to play our game, just run, run, that’s what we do,” Briggs said. “We’re a fast team, so we want to get the ball out and run, and good results happen.”
Brown — who finished with a triple-double of 18 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists — and Briggs turned the tide for the Kats early in the third quarter. They scored all of MEC’s points in a 14-4 run to a 38-28 lead.
The Kats poured it on, scoring four 3-pointers — two by Briggs, one each by Tarron Scott and diminutive sophomore Joseph Staton — in five baskets between the third and fourth quarters to open a 53-39 lead. Staton scored 12 points on four 3’s in the game.
Briggs scored 20 of his team’s 25 points, mostly at the foul line, in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
It was a strong turnaround from a sometimes-sloppy first half as the teams battled back and forth.
“The first half we kind of started out slow, we weren’t really playing our game,” Briggs said. “Once we came out of halftime, we figured we had to put the team on our back and take over.”
“We had to forget about the first half — we missed a lot of shots that we normally make, but we had to get comfortable and back to playing our game, get back to running, and it worked out great for us,” Brown said.
The Kats played only seven players in the game, but Rich said that’s not a normal thing for him.
“That’s the smallest rotation I’ve gone with in a long time, but I have a group of seniors that really want it and a 10th-grader (Staton) who can shoot the lights out,” Rich said. “Physical specimens, physical conditioning — we wear teams down.”
The Quakers (16-3) got strong games from seniors Jon Nierenberg and Jack Forlines, who each scored 18 points, and junior Tyrone Perkins, who added 16 points. Cyrus Holder grabbed 14 rebounds.
“They’re strong, they’re a good team, we had trouble stopping their penetration and getting to the rim,” Friends coach Steve Hefele said. “We were a little tentative, we didn’t play together as well as we normally do. It’s a big arena, a big stage, I think that had something to do with it, but I’m proud of my kids, they had a good season, they achieved a lot.”