WNY Athletics

Super Sophomores lead Amherst to comeback victory, Class A overall title

Chris Kensey didn’t have to say much at halftime. After a ragged first half Tuesday night, the Amherst players told their coach it was simple. Get back on defense. Box out. Be physical, and everything will work out.

“We talked about the things that were holding us back,” Kensy said. “We take care of those things and the only ones who can beat us are the Tigers.”

As is often the case at playoff time, it came down to defense. Amherst, which had trailed by 11 points in the first half, used a novel defense to hold McKinley to 14 points after halftime and turned back the Macks, 55-44, for their second straight Class A overall championship at Buffalo State.

Amherst’s defense dominated in the second half, challenging every McKinley shot and keeping the taller Macks off the defensive boards. A couple of sophomores came of age on our biggest hoop stage. Forward Antonio Andrews (17) and guard Elijah Dixson (16) both had season highs for the Tigers (21-3).

The super sophs more than compensated for an off shooting night by senior star Nick Moore, who scored a season-low four points.

“This is a team sport for a reason,” said Moore, who led Amherst in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals this season. “That’s why you have teammates to pick you up. I pride myself on playing the game not just one way.

“We live by the next-man-up mentality,” he added. “When one guy goes down, we’ve got another one coming up. We trust each other. That trust is what makes good teams great.”

As Moore said, defense wins championships. It doesn’t take nights off. Amherst, which lost in the state semifinals a year ago, moves on to Saturday’s Far West Regional at Gates Chili, where they will play the winner of the Section V final between Irondequoit and Pittsford Sutherland.

Sajon Beasley scored 10 points for McKinley of the Yale Cup, which finished 19-5. Kevin Borden and Shamonti Griffin had nine apiece for the Macks, who beat Amherst for the A title 10 years ago en route to a state title under coach Zaire Dorsey.

The Macks went on a 9-0 run to take a 27-16 lead midway through the second quarter. But they went ice cold after that, scoring just 17 points the rest of the way. Amherst snapped a 34-34 tie on successive threes by a freshman (Zavion Hawkins) and sophomore (Dixson) to close the third and never trailed again.

“We have a very large roster,” Kensy said. “We’ve had maybe 16 different starting lineups. Every day, all the guys are working on the same skills. It’s next guy up. If someone is having an off day, four trouble, they’re ready to go.
They’re battled tested and they all have confidence in each other. They are tremendous kids, they’re hard workers, and they believe in each other.

“I think it goes to show that Amherst is not a one-person team. The confidence and belief in each other to be able to make plays and make shots, it’s kind of scary. I’m just so proud of our guys, the hard work they‘ve gone through and continue to do. We’re ready to move on to the next one.”

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