Amherst girls hoops beats South, earns first Class A title since 2009
The second time Amherst lost to Williamsville South in the regular season, the goal was to get one more chance to play them, and the only way that was possible was if the teams met in the Section VI Class A girls basketball final.
The Lady Tigers did not disappoint as they scored the first seven points and never trailed on their way to a convincing 63-47 victory over the Lady Billies March 8 at Buffalo State Sports Arena. It is Amherst’s second Class A title in school history, also accomplishing the feat in 2009.
“It’s an awesome feeling, but the girls know how hard they worked to achieve it,” Amherst coach Mike Chatelle said. “They believed in themselves as individuals and as a team. Our goal was to get back and see South again, and we did a nice job in the playoffs to get there.”
Amherst’s 1-2-2 trap defense set the tempo right from the start.
Eighth-grader Emma Klein followed with consecutive steals and layups and Amherst was quickly ahead 7-0. Amherst unofficially recorded 10 steals in the first quarter.
“Since the beginning of the season, we have been more cohesive on defense, so we knew how to rotate a little better off each other,” Wanz- er said. “We are playing as a team better, and we can trust each other and go for steals and know that someone has our back.”
Wanzer and Klein accounted for 19 of the team’s 25 points as they went up 25-13 after the first quarter.
Klein scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half. She also had five rebounds.
“It’s a team effort,” Klein said. “We were really excited going into this game, so the motivation helped me do as well I did.”
Wanzer led the Tigers with 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.
Amherst played tough defense but South, which beat Hamburg to win the A-1 title for the fourth straight year, played without one of its primary ball handlers, Hannah Dolan, who was out with a Salter fracture and a torn ligament in her ankle that she suffered in the quarterfinals.
Zaria McCullough, a five-year member of the team and the only senior on the roster, ran the point and scored 12.
“Hannah was out and she is a good ball handler,” Klein said. “We knew we had to keep up the pressure.”
“No excuses, but I knew when the cast went on Hannah, it was a huge mountain to climb because having one real ball handler in Zaria against any type of trapping defense is tough,” South coach Kristen Dolan said. “Amherst played a great game and took us out of our rhythm. It just wasn’t our night.”
Amherst extended its lead to 37-25 at halftime.
South closed the gap to 49-39 after three and 49-41 early in the fourth quarter on a basket by eighth-grader Amari DeBerry (game-high 24 points), but Amherst went on an 8-0 run — two free throws and a basket from Wanzer and baskets by freshman Morgan Halt and sophomore Leah Shutts — to extend the lead to 16.
“I was really happy because they are a really tough team,” Wanzer said. “We knew Amari was going to get her points, so we knew we needed to contain the rest of the team and we picked up the slack on defense.”
“We got off to a quick start, which was important, but we also battled through times when we couldn’t and we had to slow it down,” Chatelle said. “We wanted to make sure that we were aware of where Amari was, even on the weak side.”
Also contributing to the win were senior Camryn Sullivan (four points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals), junior Hannah Bardeen (four points), Shutts (six points), sophomore Emma Stelley (two points), Halt (12 points, seven rebounds, three steals) and eighth-grader Ella Wanzer (two points).
“We moved the ball well against their zone,” Chatelle said. “Everybody had to contribute to beat a talented team like South. We had to play as a team and they did.”
Juniors Naomi DeBerry (five points), Lauren Lassister (three points) and freshman Sarah Foster (three points) also contributed for South, which finished 20-4.
“I’m proud of what they accomplished and told them to be hungry for something more,” coach Dolan said.