After coming up short in the sectional final last season, the Amherst boys basketball team was determined this time would be different.
And this time, it was.
The Falcons rode the strength of late-game free throws and turnovers to outlast Reedsville 47-46 Saturday afternoon in a WIAA Division 4 sectional final game.
With the win, Amherst advances to the state basketball tournament for the first time since 1998 and will play Thursday in a Division 4 semifinal game at the Kohl Center, where they will face Auburndale, who knocked off Unity 57-22 in another sectional final. The game will be at 6:35 p.m.
Amherst and Auburndale squared off last year in a regional final, where the the Falcons won 43-39.
“This is just fantastic,” Amherst coach Gregg Jensen said. “The guys worked well down the stretch, and made up for some of the misses we had during the game.”
Coming into the game, sixth-seeded Reedsville (11-16) rode a five-game winning streak where they beat the three top-seeded teams in its regional in close games. Reedsville also kept things close with Amherst.
With seven minutes left, Reedsville led for the first time since the opening moments of the game, but was unable to keep Amherst down. Joel Biadasz and Jonathan Konkol hit key free throws, while Tyler Biadasz got it done in the paint to give the Falcons a 47-43 lead with just seconds remaining.
With just seconds left, Reedsville had one last chance to force overtime. Reedsville’s Zach Laabs hit a three before the horn sounded, but were unable to draw a foul on the shot. With the change in possession and two-seconds left on the clock, Amherst excitedly let the clock run out.
“We did all we could to lose this game,” said Caleb Glennon who led all scorers with 19 points. “We respected Reedsville. They come from a very tough conference and are a good team, and we were able to hold on.”
After falling down early, Amherst quickly regrouped and put the pressure on the Panthers. They held an 11-8 edge after the first quarter, and eventually 23-16 at halftime.
But despite ending the first half on a hot-streak, the Falcons were nearly ice-cold in the third quarter.
Amherst was outscored 11-6 in the frame as Reedsville was able to get back into the game.
“The guys stayed the course and were prepared for sectional ball,” Jensen said. “We had no preseason attention, and we are now going to Madison. That speaks volumes for the work ethic of the guys.”
REEDSVILLE (46): Brock Gilsdorf 14, Zach Laabs 13, Cody Schamburek 10, Bryce Wenzel 4, Bryler Kiekhaefer 3, Bryce Hassemer 2.
AMHERST (47): Caleb Glennon 19, Ryan Makuski 10, Tyler Biadasz 8, Joel Biadasz 6, Jonathan Konkol 4.
3-Pointers: Reedsville 5 (Gilsdorf 2, Laabs 2, Kielhaefer); Amherst 1 (Makuski.)
Records: Amherst 22-3, Reedsville 11-16.