Success on the football field at Amherst High School has led to more success on the basketball court.
The Amherst boys’ basketball team, fresh off of a Central Wisconsin 8 Conference co-championship with Shiocton, is heading to a Division 4 sectional after opening the state tournament with wins over Stevens Point Pacelli and Iola-Scandinavia.
The Falcons handed Pacelli a 58-52 loss Feb. 23 in a regional final one day after eliminating I-S 60-34.
Amherst will play Oconto at 7 tonight (Thursday, Feb. 28), in a sectional semifinal at D.C. Everest High School in Schofield. The winner will take on Shiocton or Reedsville at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2, in a sectional final at Appleton North.
AMHERST – I-S fell to Amherst twice during the regular season, but Thunderbird coach Sam Bertsch said he thought he had his team had a chance, especially after opening tournament play Feb. 19 with a 58-38 win over Rosholt.
“We thought we had a chance coming in,” he said. “They believed, but they saw tonight that they have a little work left to do.”
That work includes figuring out a way to stop the Falcons’ Caleb Glennon, who scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the first half.
Amherst opened the game with a 10-2 run and the T-Birds never got any closer than five points the rest of the way.
The Falcons led 18-8 after one quarter, 30-16 at halftime and 44-25 after three quarters.
Glennon turned out to be the only player in the game to score in double figures. Issac Lashua led the T-Birds with eight, while Braiden Garbe chipped in with seven.
Amherst had a 26-11 advantage in field goals and the T-Birds hit only one of 16 three-pointers.
“Credit their defense and their patience, seniors looking for good shots and getting easy shots to turn this into a runaway pretty quick,” Bertsch said. “They’ve been in pressure situations. A lot of those guys played on their state championship football team. They have the makings of making a nice run in the playoffs, but they have a tough road ahead of them. They’ve been tested before and I think they’ll do fine.”
The Falcons’ roster includes seven seniors, while the T-Birds will lose their only senior, Mike Blum. That has Bertsch looking forward to his team’s future.
“It’s been a progression of some nice things over the last couple of seasons,” he said. “It’s our third year in a row of winning a tournament game, so we have to hang our hat on that. We go from five wins last year to 12 wins and we return a lot of ballplayers.
“I’m a positive kind of guy,” he added. “We’ll build off of this and be better next year.”
I-S ended it season at 12-12, while the Falcons will take a 20-3 mark into the next round of the tournament.
IOLA – A 19-4 scoring advantage in the second quarter helped the T-Birds take a 27-14 halftime lead.
Garbe and Connor Lodewegen led the T-Birds with 10 points each, while Isaac Lashua added eight and Nick Wavruk and John Prahl chipped in with seven each. Jarod Richter led Rosholt with nine.
“Rosholt’s a team that had a lot of seniors,” Bertsch said. “For us to be relatively young to go against a Rosholt team like that and pull out a home win in front of a nice crowd, those are things we can build off of.”