Amherst boys basketball goes 0-2 at Sentry Classic
By John Kemmeter
With a roster full of new faces still coming together under first-year head coach Phil Jagielo, the Amherst High School boys basketball team finished 0-2 at the 47th Sentry Classic at Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 27-29.
The Falcons (0-9) fell to Division 5 sixth-ranked Almond-Bancroft (8-1) Thursday afternoon, then were unable to hold off a second-half rally from Pacelli Catholic High School (3-7) in a 68-54 loss Saturday night.
“I thought in spurts we played hard, but our margin of error is very thin,” said Jagielo after the Almond game. “And we can not afford to play in spurts, we have got to play 36 minutes of the good stuff, as coach (Scott) Anderson would say.
“So when we only give 20 minutes of our best stuff, it’s going to be hard to overcome that, because we’re a little challenged offensively,” he said. “It’s just a process and we’re just trying to get better every game, every rep, every minute of every game and practice.”
Amherst lost Unanimous First Team All-CWC East guard and CWC East Player of the Year Colton Groholski, Unanimous First Team All-CWC East forward Mason Wideman and Second Team All-CWC East point guard Marcus Glodowski from last year’s team that finished 17-7 overall and went 11-1 to win the Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) East.
Senior 6-2 forward Carson Sneller (6.7 points, 8.0 rebounds per game last season) was the only returnee who saw extended playing time a year ago, while 6-2 senior guard/forward Zach Toelle and 5-11 junior guard Cyle Zblewski were the only other players back from last year’s varsity roster, as Jagielo took over as the team’s head coach after he previously served as an assistant coach for the SPASH boys basketball team.
Joining the mix for playing time this season has been 6-0 junior forward Aidan Elwood, 5-11 freshman guard Logan Moe, 6-0 junior guard/forward Lincoln Cullen, 5-11 junior guard Alex Felckowski, 6-1 senior guard Brenner Gosh, 6-1 senior forward Parker Rutta, 6-4 sophomore forward Carmelo Aleman, 5-11 junior guard Ethan Dombrowski and 6-4 freshman forward Ben Lee.
“It’s coming along, I can tell,” said Zblewski. “Our first game against Valders, we lost by (45), and now we’re assembling together and we’re playing much better.
“Much more fundamental basketball,” he said.
Amherst opened at this year’s Sentry Classic Thursday afternoon against Almond, which got out to a 9-0 lead three minutes into the game and led 16-2 with 11:02 to play in the first half.
The Falcons got to within 29-17 with 2:30 remaining in the half, before Almond went into halftime with a 37-18 lead and used a 12-2 run to start the second half and go up 49-20 with 12:29 to go.
The Eagles went on to a 75-44 win, as Sneller finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Toelle added six points, six rebounds and four assists for Amherst.
“We knew what we were up against when we faced them,” said Jagielo. “Noah (Kollock) is a heck of a player, and Cade Lamb is also, and our game plan was to try to go after those two.
“And we did it in spurts, and then at other times, we kind of lost track of that,” he said.
The Falcons were back Saturday night to take on Pacelli, which built a 15-6 lead with 9:36 left in the first half, before the Falcons came charging back with a 14-4 run to take a 20-19 lead with 4:38 to go on a layup from Zblewski.
Cullen knocked down a three-pointer with 58 seconds left in the half to give Amherst a 28-23 advantage at halftime, while the game went back-and-forth through the opening minutes of the second half.
The Falcons held a 35-31 lead with 13:46 to go and were tied 39-39 with 10:30 remaining, when Pacelli reserve senior guard Trevor Frane knocked down three three-pointers in an 18-2 run that gave the Cardinals a 57-41 lead with 3:36 to play.
“I feel like we didn’t close out hard enough to open defenders on the three-point line,” said Zblewski. “As you see, Trevor Frane went off for (five) threes.
“So we’ve just got to play harder,” he said.
Pacelli went on to win 68-54, as Zblewski finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists; and Sneller totaled 17 points, 10 rebounds and three steals, as he was named to the All-Classic Team for the Amherst boys, which are set to host Port Edwards in a nonconference game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4.
“Our coach always says, ‘don’t look at the record, look at the progress,’” said Sneller. “And in practice the guys are working a lot harder lately, and we’ve really stepped up our game.
“It’s getting there, so piece by piece we’re building the team, we’re getting stronger, we’re getting more together,” he said. “That was one of the things that was different, is we have never really played with each other, it was a whole new team, also a lot of the coaching staff. And now I think it’s really come along, and we’re all starting to get together and play together as one.”
“We’re taking steps, we’re taking baby steps,” said Jagielo. “Now I hope within the next couple of weeks and days that we can take some of those leaps forward and take maybe a jump.
“And I tell our guys, ‘I wouldn’t trade them for the world,’ I love coming to practice every day and being around these guys, it’s fun,” he said. “And although the wins and losses necessarily aren’t where we want them to be, we are getting better.”