One point. That’s all that separated the Amherst boys’ basketball team first trip to state in 15 years and another disappointing sectional final defeat.
The Falcons erased a pair of fourth-quarter deficits March 2 and held on for a 47-46 win over Reedsville in a Division 4 sectional final at Waupaca High School.
The win sets up a rematch with Auburndale at 6:35 tonight (Thursday, March 7) in a state semifinal at the Kohl Center in Madison. Amherst defeated the Apaches in a regional final last year.
The Falcons also picked up a 70-50 tournament win over Oconto Feb. 28.
Amherst 47, Reedsville 46
WAUPACA – Reedsville came into the game as a No. 6 seed, but advanced to the sectional final after knocking off No. 1 Shiocton in a sectional semifinal and No. 2 Algoma and No. 3 Oshkosh Lourdes in regional play.
The 11-15 Panthers’ quest for the team’s first trip to state since 1946 came up just short against the Falcons, another No. 1 seed.
Amherst lost in the sectional final round last year to Lourdes, but the outcome this time was different, thanks in part to some timely free throws down the stretch.
The Falcons took an 11-8 lead into the second quarter and led by as many as nine points in the second quarter before the Panthers cut the lead to 23-16 at the break.
Amherst was able to get the lead to seven three times in the third quarter, but the Panthers were able to trim the deficit to 29-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
Zach Laabs gave the Falcons their first lead since early in the game a minute into the fourth quarter to give his team a 31-29 advantage, but baskets from Jonathan Konkol and Ryan Makuski tied the game at 33-33.
Reedsville took another lead on a Brock Gilsdorf three with 4:15 remaining to make it 36-35, but that turned out to be the Panthers’ final lead of the game, as Joel Biadasz, Caleb Glennon and Konkol each hit a pair of free throws for Amherst.
Konkol’s free throws, with 11.3 seconds go to, gave the Falcons a 47-43 lead.
Laabs hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to one and fell down after the shot, but a foul wasn’t called.
Glennon led the Falcons with 19 points, while Makuski added 10. Gilsdorf and Laabs led the Panthers with 14 and 13, respectively.
“It feels great and it’s a great relief,” Amherst coach Gregg Jensen said. “I think it’ll finally sink in when we get to Madison.”
Amherst 70, Oconto 50
SCHOFIELD – The Blue Devils are probably glad they won’t have to deal with Glennon again.
The senior scored a game-high 25 points, including 18 in the second half.
The Falcons led 15-6 after one quarter, but only scored six points in the second quarter on Marcus Jensen’s three baskets. However, Amherst still led 21-14 at the break.
“We didn’t play well (in the first half),” Jensen said. “The main thing at this stage is to get by and we got by. That’s the bottom line.”
Although the Falcons had trouble scoring in the second quarter, they were able to hold Oconto’s leading scorer, Trent Mehlberg, scoreless during the first three quarters. He finished with 10 points, but teammate Connor Moe led the Blue Devils with 20.
“That was disappointing,” Jensen said of the Falcons’ inability to stop Moe. “We didn’t do a good job getting around him and our help was slow to get to him. If you give a guy like that a step, which we gave him, we should’ve rotated and we didn’t rotate very well defensively. The second defender should’ve been chest-to-chest. When he got a step, it was all over. He got too low on us.”
Glennon scored 10 of Amherst’s first 12 points of the second half to help the Falcons take a 39-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
Amherst closed out the game by outscoring the Blue Devils 31-23 in the fourth quarter.
Jensen added 15 for the Falcons, while Biadasz added nine.
Jensen and the Falcons have a tough task tonight in stopping Auburndale’s Austin Hawkins.
“We’re going to have to play extremely well defensively, not just the guy that guards Hawkins,” he said. “He’s very tough to handle and it’s going to have to be an outstanding team effort.”
Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said his team is 67-6 over the past three seasons with Hawkins in the lineup.
“Austin’s more than willing to give up the ball,” he said. “He’s third on the team in assists.”
The Apaches’ only loss this season was in overtime to Stratford and Weinfurter has a good idea of what’s in store for his team at state.
“Coach Jensen’s teams always play great defense,” he said. “I know they’re extremely competitive and they certainly get the job done. It’s been a tough matchup every time we’ve played them.”
Jensen is taking his team to Madison for the first time since 1998, the Falcons’ only appearance at state.
“We’ve had some opportunities in the past and have come up short, so that makes this one special,” he said. “We had one five or six years ago to (Manitowoc) Roncalli that was double or triple overtime. Getting through kind of makes it an enjoyable experience.”