BUFFALO — With its season on the line, the Randolph boys basketball team played one of its best quarters of the year, then the Cardinals endured three periods they’d rather forget.
Playing Section 6 Class C-1 champion Middle Early College, the No. 3 team in the Buffalo News’ “Small School” poll behind only Olean and Cardinal O’Hara, Randolph didn’t look like underdogs early on in Tuesday’s Class C state qualifier. The Cardinals raced out to a 15-8 lead at the end of the quarter, and scored the first basket of the second for a 17-8 advantage. Then, the avalanche hit.
Randolph didn’t score again for nearly two full quarters, from 7:20 remaining in the second until 42.3 seconds remained in the third, as MEC took an extended 26-0 run. Randolph got six quick points to end the third from star junior guard Tyler Hind, but the game was already out of reach thanks to the Kats’ defense as MEC held off the Cardinals, 47-30.
Randolph scored half of its points in the first quarter on 6-of-12 shooting, but went ice cold since then: 5-of-32 in the final three quarters.
“Our goal coming in was to keep them under 50, and if we keep them in the 50s we’re in for a game,” RCS coach Kevin Hind said. “I thought we could execute some stuff, run some stuff, (but) it was so physical out there. We didn’t score enough points to win.”
Tyler Hind led the Cardinals with 15 points on three three-pointers. Kaleb Steward added seven points. Not letting Hind, who MEC coach James Kane called "a great player," beat them was the Kats' top priority.
"We knew we had to take him out of the game, make it hard on him, for us to play good defense," Kane said. "I think we made it very hard on him passing the ball and not letting it get into his hands. We definitely executed that very well, especially in the second and third quarters."
Jamond Jones led a trio of double-digit scorers for the Kats, with 11 points, while Keyunte Jones and Keith Brown had 10 points each.
MEC advances to Saturday’s Far West Regionals against Section 5’s C.G. Finney or Caledonia-Mumford at Greece Athena in Rochester.
Kevin Hind had a matter-of-fact tone after the game coming out of his locker room.
“They’ve got athletes that I don’t,” he said of MEC. “We have to rely on heart, playing hard, playing together, playing the right way, playing with every last bit of energy we have to try and keep it close.”
Randolph’s season ends at 18-6 after winning its third sectional title since 2014, ninth since 1994 and 10th in school history.
“We’ve got a good thing going,” Kevin Hind said. “We’re right there, right where we want to be. Now we have to get over the hump.”
Dominated in long stretches by the more physical team, the Cardinals already have a goal to address the weaknesses MEC showed Tuesday night. Randolph is set to bring back four starters next year, the exception being senior forward Andrew Bernard.
"We just got done talking about the one thing that needs to happen next year is 'you all need to come back 15 pounds stronger,'" Kevin Hind said. "You're not going to be fast, you can't make yourself super-quick, you can't make yourself 6-5. But the one thing you can do, ‘Ty, instead of 140, next year you're sitting here at 155. The same with you, Branson (Morrison) and Kaleb and Gabe (McCoy).’ That's one thing we can take out of here today.
"Every time you're thinking you don't want to go to the weight room, hopefully you remember this, so you all come back as seniors and we'll give it a go again."
Steward 3 0-0 7, I. Hind 0 0-2 0, T. Hind 5 2-3 15, Rosengren 1 0-0 3, McCoy 2 1-8 5, Bernard 0 0-1 0. Totals: 11 3-14 30.
Middle Early College (47)
J. Jones 5 0-1 11, K. Jons 4 1-2 10, Brown 4 2-4 10, Stevens-Richardson 2 1-2 5, Prince 3 1-2 8, Nettles 0 1-2 1, Virgil 0 2-4 2. Totals: 18 8-17 47.
Randolph 15 17 23 30
Middle Early College 8 24 35 47
Three-point goals: Randolph 5 (Steward, T. Hind 3, Rosengren), MEC 3 (J. Jones, K. Jones, Prince). Total fouls: Randolph 14, MEC 15. Fouled out: Nettles (MEC).