WNY Athletics


by Tony Fiorello

Before the Amherst Tigers took on the Williamsville South Billies in a crucial matchup on Friday night, one could notice a fan-made sign hanging up behind one of the nets. The sign labeled the forthcoming game as “The Battle of Main Street”. The encounter between cross-town rivals certainly lived up to the billing, as the Tigers (12-2, 7-1) extended their nine-game winning streak by downing the Billies (9-2, 6-1) 71-61 – the Tigers’ first victory over the Billies in three years.

“The kids took to the gameplan, we controlled the glass and took care of the basketball for the most part, and our fan section – it’s the best fan section in Western New York, and our kids feed off them,” Tigers coach Chris Kensy said. “Will South is a good team and they have a tremendous amount of respect for the game. They kept coming at us, but we kept making plays.”
Marcellus Cooper, who led the Tigers in scoring with 17 points – 10 of them coming in the third quarter, including a half-court, buzzer-beating three at the end of the stanza – agreed.

“I just knew, going onto the court before the game, that we were going to win,” Cooper said. “The last time we played against them, we just couldn’t finish the job. I told everyone, if we play good team defense this time, we’re going to beat these guys every time. And we did.”
The contest was part of a doubleheader in which both the boys’ and girls’ teams competed against one another. In the girls’ game, the Billies (9-3, 7-0) defeated the Tigers (8-3, 7-2) 57-53, with eighth-grader Amari DeBerry pacing her squad with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

“Our weapon today was Amari,” Billies coach Kristen Dolan said. “They had a tough time matching up with her, and she’s extremely gifted for her age.”

The boys’ game saw the Billies take a 34-31 halftime lead with the help of Mark Worthy’s three-point shooting effort. Worthy nailed four three-pointers to score 12 of his 16 total points, but the Tigers fought back in the second half. In the third quarter, Cooper essentially put the team on his back and trimmed the Billies’ lead to just one point, but it was the fourth quarter that proved to be the most crucial to the outcome.

A dunk by South’s Greg Dolan extended the lead, but Amherst soon went on a seven-point run and never relinquished the lead afterwards. Layups proved to be the Billies’ undoing, as Jordan Barr, Da’Shawn Hines and Jake Funderburk all scored from inside to seal the win for the Tigers.
“Cooper was great for us tonight, and those three guys – Funderburk, Hines and Barr – crashed the boards, boxed out well and finished at the hoop,” Kensy said. “We had a lot of passion going on on our bench and on the court, and it showed.”

Before the team walked out of their locker room, the Tigers saw a picture of the Billies celebrating a win from earlier this season over Amherst staring back at them. The goal of that picture, of course, was to serve as motivation for the Tigers – and it worked, according to Kensy.

“We feel as though we didn’t give our best effort in that game,” Kensy said. “We wanted every single person, before they walked out of that door, to look at that and realize, ‘I can give more.’ We sure gave more tonight.”

Cooper, meanwhile, was happy about the victory, but was already looking towards bigger and better things.

“This is a big win, but the bigger goal here is to get to (sectionals) at Buffalo State,” Cooper said. “This isn’t for a championship but this is a step towards an ultimate goal, and hopefully this can help us get towards that goal.”

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