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Amherst Survives Challenge From Rival Sweet Home

On paper, the Amherst High School boys basketball team looked like a pretty good bet to get past Sweet Home in the semifinals of the Jolly Boys Bob Hettler Holiday Basketball Tournament.

But Tigers’ coach Chris Kensy has been around long enough to know that the paper can go out the window when it comes to rivalry games. Amherst will indeed play in the tournament championship game, but the Panthers made the Tigers work for every bit of a 53-43 win on Thursday night.

“They’re right across Sweet Home Road essentially and it’s a rivalry game,” Kensy said. “It’s going to physical and I’m just glad we were able to make a few more plays them in the end.”

Amherst sophomore Jake Mullen gave his team the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 30 seconds in the third quarter. The Tigers then finally seized command of the game in the fourth quarter.

“In the fourth quarter, I felt like we had more energy,” said Amherst senior forward Marcellus Cooper, who led all players with 27 points. “We got a good pep talk from our coach and our energy was up. Ball movement, I felt like we moved the ball perfectly in the fourth quarter.”

Amherst (6-2) was heavily-dependent on its star player Cooper in the first half as he scored 14 of the Tigers’ 26 points in the first half as the teams headed into the locker room tied. Sweet Home (2-3) led by as much as four points in the third quarter but the Tigers got contributions from up and down the roster the rest of the way. Amherst finished the third on a 10-3 run and pulled away in the fourth.

“We had a bunch of guys step up,” Kensy said. “Marcellus obviously played very well, Da’Shawn Hines attacked the basket, Jake Mullen hit that big 3, Daesean Ashley had a couple of good takes … The fourth quarter we just wanted it.”

Amherst plays North Tonawanda at 6:30 p.m. in today’s championship game. Sweet Home will face Starpoint in the consolation game at 5 p.m.

Stephon Trueheart scored 17 points to lead Sweet Home, while Matthew Nix added 12 for the Panthers.

“They gave us everything we could handle,” Kensy said. “They were very physical with us. They stepped o the floor and toe-to-toe with us. Fortunately were able to make a couple more plays than they did.”

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