Patience is paying off for the Amherst boys’ basketball team.
The Falcons took only 30 shots, but still came up with a 53-37 win over Iola-Scandinavia March 7 in a Division 4 regional final in Amherst.
The 20-4 Falcons will take on 20-4 Brillion at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 12, in Seymour in a sectional semifinal. The winner will then face Auburndale or Crivitz at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at Appleton East in a sectional final.
The Falcons and Thunderbirds advanced to the regional final with wins March 6 over Central Wisconsin 8 Conference teams. The top-seeded Falcons knocked off No. 4 Shiocton 65-54, while the second-seeded T-Birds held on for a 46-40 home win over third-seeded Bonduel.
Amherst 53, I-S 37
AMHERST – Both teams scored 13 points in the first quarter, but the Falcons began to pull away in the second after the T-Birds’ Kristian Welch and Braiden Garbe picked up their second fouls.
Amherst closed the half with an 8-1 run and went into the locker room with a 28-21 lead.
“I still felt good down by seven (at halftime),” I-S coach Sam Bertsch said. “I thought, ‘Hey, we should play a good second half.'”
Amherst converted only two baskets in the third quarter, but the Falcon defense held the T-Birds scoreless in the period until Zach Mortenson hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to 33-24.
“Scoring three points in one quarter is not going to cut it,” Bertsch said. “It was quite a scoring drought. We struggled to score and that’s a credit to their defense.”
All but four of Iola-Scandinavia’s 13 points in the fourth quarter came at the free-throw line, where the T-Birds hit 18 of 22 attempts.
Meanwhile, the Falcons led by as many as 18 points down the stretch.
“We talked all week about being patient, working the ball around and getting it to Tyler (Biadasz) or anyone,” Amherst coach Scott Groholski said. “It worked out for us tonight.”
“They’re a very good team that plays well with a lead,” Bertsch said. “The tell-tale sign of that was when they came out in the third quarter and were able to just run clock with the lead, very patient. We knew that could happen. It just took the wind out of our sails.”
Garrett Groshek and Biadasz led the Falcons with 18 and 13 points, respectively.
“The big thing is getting the shot you want to get,” Groholski said. “We did a really good job tonight of being patient and getting really good shots. “We have players that could be a 30-shot-a-night guy. We don’t care who scores, we’re going to work the ball around. We like to share the basketball.”
Groshek also held Welch to two-of-five shooting and 10 points.
“That takes a lot of energy because Welch is a big, strong kid,” Groholski said. “He pretty much manhandled Garrett the last time we played them. I think Garrett was like, ‘Oh boy, I better strap it up today and do a better job.’ He did.”
Fans from both schools filled Amherst’s gym.
The Falcons edged the T-Birds by a game to win the CWC-8 championship and both teams came into the game with 19-4 records.
“That’s what you want, the two top teams in the conference going at each other,” Bertsch said. “I wish it would have been a little closer than 16, but we lost to a very good club tonight.
“It had the billing for a good game,” he added. “I just don’t think we quite met that intensity. It seemed like they were a step faster than us tonight, but we still laid it all out on the line.”