A record-setting performance turned out to be enough to knock the Amherst out of the state boys’ basketball tournament.
Auburndale handed the Falcons a 49-29 loss March 7 in a Division 4 state semifinal game at the Kohl Center in Madison. Amherst ended its season with a 22-4 record, while the Apaches fell to Whitefish Bay Dominican two days later in the state championship game.
The Apaches set a pair of Division 4 state tournament records. Auburndale hit 64.3 percent of its shots (18 of 28), while Austin Hawkins set a new D4 record by hitting 10 of his 11 shots.
“No. 1, we were definitely afraid of Hawkins,” Amherst coach Gregg Jensen said. “All you have to do is look the stat sheet and see why. He can shoot the three, he can post up well and they have some nice personnel around him.”
While Hawkins and his teammates were hitting shots, the Falcons had trouble scoring. Amherst hit seven of its 19 shots in the first half, but only five of 23 in the second half to finish 12 of 42.
“You’re not going to beat a lot of teams shooting that way,” Jensen said. “I felt we were in trouble, especially the way the ball wasn’t falling.”
Amherst never had the lead in the game. The Apaches outscored the Falcons 14-4 in the first quarter, led 24-15 at halftime, took a 37-21 lead into the fourth quarter before outscoring Amherst 12-8 over the final eight minutes.
Caleb Glennon led Amherst with 14 points, but no other Falcon player made more than one basket or finished with more than four points.
“At the beginning of the year, the players had high expectations,” said Glennon, who quarterbacked the Falcons to a state football championship in November. “We didn’t see ourselves getting this far. Today, we came out a little scared. Auburndale made plays and we couldn’t hit shots. We just didn’t play well.”
Hawkins led all scorers with 20 points, while teammate Blake Anderson hit four of his seven three-point attempts and finished with 15.
“I’m proud of our kids and I told them that after the game,” Jensen said. “You look at our conference with Shiocton having five guys back and (Stevens Point) Pacelli with five very good basketball players. Other teams in our area had some ranking, but we didn’t, which is nice.”
It was Amherst’s first trip to state since 1998.
Jensen stopped short of saying he would step down after 29 seasons of coaching the team.
“I’m looking forward to watching our kids in baseball and track,” he said. “I’m just going to take it easy, think about the season and enjoy it because it was a fun run.”
Several players on Amherst’s roster also competed in football in the fall.
“I talked to a few other coaches in Stratford and Edgar that are around that all the time,” Jensen said. “Missing 14 days of practice, we had to skip a lot of things. I thought, ‘We’re not going to go .500, we’re going to struggle bad.’ I think we had Bonduel 11 days later and we looked extremely well. From that point on, we kept rolling.”