The ‘Battle of Main Street’ got one extra round in 2017 as the #1 Williamsville South Lady Billies and #3 Amherst Lady Tigers went for the Section VI Girls Basketball Class A Championship on the third matchup of the year.
Although the Billies got the better of Amherst the two rounds in the regular season, it was the Tigers who came out on top on when it mattered most Wednesday night 63-47 to win their first ever Sectional title.
“Nothing could be better than this,” Amherst senior forward Claire Wanzer said. “Getting to play with these girls and going farther than we expected just feels awesome.”
The Tigers came out aggressive to start the game.
Camryn Sullivan got a steal off the very first possession of the game. After a Wanzer 3-pointer, Emma Klein and Leah Shutts had back-to-back inbound pass steals, that were both quickly turned into points.
“We have been playing better as a defense lately”, Wanzer said. “We can trust each other and go for steals knowing that someone has your back.”
Will South head coach Kristen Dolan called a timeout, just 1:13 into the game as her team was down 7-0.
But the ball control issues continued for the Billies.
“It took us out of our rhythm,” Dolan said. “When you get down like that it affects you. They forget what we need to be doing.”
Right after the timeout, Shutts got another steal. Klein then helped force three consecutive turnovers. On the third steal, Klein was fouled and converted on her free throws to extend the Amherst lead to 9-1.
Klein ended with 13 points and six steals.
“Everybody was pumped up,” Klein said. “We planned on pressuring them right from the beginning.”
Later on, Sullivan made a block and turned it into points on the fast break to give the Tigers their largest lead of the game 16-3, with 3:15 to go in the first.
Will South started to get their legs as Zaria McCullough got into a rhythm late in the quarter. McCullough has filled in at point guard since Hannah Dolan went down with a foot injury in late February.
“No excuses,” coach Dolan said. “But I knew once that cast went on Hannah it was a huge mountain for us to climb.”
McCullough, the only senior on the team, had 12 points in her final game as a Lady Billie.
The aggressive play paid off for Amherst as they lead 25-13 at the end of the first. The Tigers had seven steals and forced three turnovers in the first quarter.
Will South got on the board first in the second quarter as McCullough’s success continued. The senior made two 3-point plays.
Also, helping the Billies’ cause was 6’ 4” eight-grader Amari DeBarry. DeBarry led her team with 24 points.
The top seeded Billies went and back and forth with the Tigers in the second and third quarter, but never really caught up as Amherst lead 49-39 at the end of the third.
After DeBarry cut the Tiger lead to eight early in the fourth quarter, Wanzer stepped up and knocked down two free throws, ending hopes of a Will South comeback.
Wanzer led her team with 20 points, including six in the fourth quarter.
“We knew DeBarry was going to get her points, but we needed to contain everyone else,” Wanzer said. “We defensively picked up the slacked.”
The loss was particularly tough for Dolan, who has coached many of her players since third grade.
“It stings,” Dolan said. “These girls did all they could do but it just wasn’t our night.”
According to Amherst head coach Mike Chatelle, the win was truly a team effort.
“Everybody had to show up in order to get the job done,” Chatelle said. “Maybe it didn’t show up as points, but it showed up as a blocked shot or a box-out.”
Sullivan had six rebounds and four assists and Shutts six steals. Morgan Halt got seven total rebounds coming off the bench.
Amherst will now go onto play in the Far West Regionals against Section V Champion Pittsford Mendon on Saturday at 11 am back at Buffalo State.