Weekly Feature



2018-02-07 / Sports

Sweet Home hoops ends Amherst’s reign as Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic champs

Robertson named MVP
PATRICK NAGY
Sports Reporter


Sweet Home’s boys basketball team beat Amherst, 57-48, Friday to win the Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic for the first time in the four-year history of the event. Team members include, from left: first row, Evan John, Maurice Robertson and Ryan Harris; second row, assistant coach Jonathan Graves, head coach Brandon Woods, manager Emanuel Simmons, Matthew Nix, Jamel Lucas, Dylan McDuffie, DaeQuan Hill, Marjohn Manuel, Stephon Trueheart, Brian Lovering and assistant coach Carson Ervin. 
Photo by Patrick J. Nagy Sweet Home’s boys basketball team beat Amherst, 57-48, Friday to win the Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic for the first time in the four-year history of the event. Team members include, from left: first row, Evan John, Maurice Robertson and Ryan Harris; second row, assistant coach Jonathan Graves, head coach Brandon Woods, manager Emanuel Simmons, Matthew Nix, Jamel Lucas, Dylan McDuffie, DaeQuan Hill, Marjohn Manuel, Stephon Trueheart, Brian Lovering and assistant coach Carson Ervin. Photo by Patrick J. Nagy For the first time in the four-year history of the Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic, the trophy will be displayed at Sweet Home High School.

Stephon Trueheart (15 points), Maurice Robertson (13 points) and Dae- Quan Hill (12 points, 10 rebounds) were all in double figures as the Panthers secured a 57-48 home win over Amherst Friday.

The victory also clinched a season sweep over the Tigers and was Sweet Home’s fifth win in a row.

“This is a feel-good win for us because it is a rival game and it is the 290 Classic,” Sweet Home coach Brandon Woods said. “I’m pleased with the guys’ effort and our progression.”

“It means a lot for us,” said Robertson, named the Game MVP. “The last few years have been tough losses but we pulled it out this year.”

The Panthers came out firing on all cylinders, shooting five three-pointers in the first quarter and building a 19-7 advantage.

Amherst, last year’s reigning Section VI Class A-2 champions, did not go quietly, outscoring Sweet Home, 16-11, in the second quarter, and cutting the deficit to 30-23 at halftime.

Amherst cut the deficit to seven twice more in the third quarter but Sweet Home knocked down 6-of-7 free throws to close out the quarter and build a 45-33 advantage.


Sweet Home’s Maurice Robertson fights in the air for a rebound with Amherst’s James Moore during the Panthers’ 57-48 win Friday night in the Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic. Robertson tallied 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals on his way to being named Game MVP. Sweet Home’s Maurice Robertson fights in the air for a rebound with Amherst’s James Moore during the Panthers’ 57-48 win Friday night in the Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic. Robertson tallied 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals on his way to being named Game MVP. Sweet Home appeared to pull away in the fourth quarter but Amherst closed the game on a 11-1 run.

“We have had games like this where we have good starts and then have these lulls,” Woods said. “We have to get better with that. Part of the problem is we can’t string along defensive possessions. Early on, our defensive intensity was great and then it fizzled out and was flat. Our guys made too many mental mistakes down the stretch.”

Amherst coach Chris Kensy said his team could not dig itself out of its early deficit.

“Other than the first quarter, it was pretty even,” he said. “We have to start better. In our losses, we have one quarter where we have not played well.”


Amherst’s Ja’kye Womack blocks a clear shot on a layup from Sweet Home’s Maurice Robertson during the Tigers’ 57-48 loss in the Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic Friday at Sweet Home. 
Photos by Jake French Amherst’s Ja’kye Womack blocks a clear shot on a layup from Sweet Home’s Maurice Robertson during the Tigers’ 57-48 loss in the Interstate 290 Crosstown Classic Friday at Sweet Home. Photos by Jake French Robertson shot 9-of-11 from the free-throw line and scored the team’s first five points of the fourth quarter. He also recorded seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“He’s doing a great job right now not only being an athlete but he is also like a second ball handler in the front court,” Woods said.

Amherst’s Daesean Ashley led all scorers with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Jackson Tan (10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, two steals, took a charge), Jake Mullen (10 points, five assists, four rebounds), Ja’kye Womack (five points, six rebounds, four steals, two assists) and James Moore (two points, two rebounds) also tallied for the Tigers, which suffered their fourth straight loss.

Kensy said his team also did not rebound well, grabbing 26, well below its goal of 40 per game. He also said his team did not share the ball enough as they had 10 assists to 17 turnovers.

The Panthers opened the week with a 65-47 home win over Hamburg Jan. 30.

“We played more of a complete game,” Woods said. “We contested shots on defense. It was really a team effort.”

Sweet Home struggled early as they trailed 12-10 after the first quarter but they outscored the Bulldogs, 23-15, in the second quarter, 18-11, in the third quarter and 14-9 in the fourth quarter.

“We got off to a slow start and I felt like we gave up too many points in the first half,” Woods said. “We zoned pressed them but did not get the backside rotation that we had been getting. We bothered them because we got them out of the flow of their offense so they were taking early shots but they were getting putbacks because we weren’t hustling back and getting a body on guys. Or they were beating us up the floor and their bigger guards were over the top of our smaller guards off the trap.”

In the second half, Woods switched up defenses from a zone press to man and got two “kills,” or three defensive stops in a row, a technique University of Texas coach Shaka Smart created.

Dylan McDuffie scored a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds. McDuffie’s previous career high was 17 against Kenmore West Jan. 26.

Evan John was sick but still had 12 points.

Matthew Nix was scoreless in the first half but drained a buzzer-beater three at the end of the third quarter and seven more points in the fourth quarter.

Trueheart added eight points but did all of the little things, like diving on the floor for loose balls and boxing out on defense.

Jamel Lucas added six points and six rebounds.

Robertson left the game in the first quarter with a bruised thigh and re-entered the game in the second half and grabbed eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.

As a team, Sweet Home also shot 73 percent from the free-throw line.

Sweet Home (13-4, 7-2) traveled to Starpoint Tuesday but information about the game was unavailable before The Bee went to press. They host West Seneca East at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

“We are happy but not satisfied,” Woods said. “After we played South [lost 79-48 on Jan. 16], we minimized our season in eight games. We just finished game five.”

Amherst (9-7, 5-5) hosts Lake Shore in a non-league game at 6:30 p.m. Friday and faces McKinley at 2 p.m. Saturday at City Honors.

“We have to play more consistent and take care of the basketball better,” Kensy said. “We need to get a couple sparks off the bench. That is definitely something we have been lacking in our losses.”

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