Eagles escape Sentry Classic opener after chaotic late-game execution
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT — The 51st annual Sentry Classic held at UWSP was on its second day on Dec. 29. The Almond-Bancroft and Amherst boys’ basketball teams faced off in a game between two CWC teams. The Eagles opened up the game late, but late-game execution kept the Falcons in it until the final buzzer. Almond-Bancroft outlasted Amherst 63-56.
The big news was that Amherst senior Tyler Soulsby returned for the first time after missing the last five games with a shoulder injury. Both teams came out aggressive on the offensive end. The Eagles opened the game’s scoring on a sweet assist by TJ Lamb that found Brody Dernbach underneath the basket.
Almond-Bancroft scored on its four possessions, while Amherst started hot in its own right. The Falcons’ first four baskets were three-pointers, which had the game tied at 12 with 9:43 remaining in the first half. Both sides focused on getting the ball to their primary scorers, 6-7 sophomore Ayden Phillips for Almond-Bancroft, and Soulsby for Amherst. Phillips had eight of the opening 12 points, while Soulsby got up to eight points minutes later.
Almond-Bancroft went cold on offense, allowing the Falcons to get two buckets in the post to lead 19-15. The Eagles sparked a late-half 12-2 run after that, putting them in the driver’s seat, up 27-21. A fun first half had them leading 31-26 at the break. Phillips had a game-high 16 points in the first half. Soulsby, Spencer Cohen, and Aidan Jastromski were all active scorers for Amherst.
The Falcons held Phillips in check in the second half but allowed Dernbach to be aggressive with the ball. A big second half by the sophomore kept the Eagles in front, extending the lead to ten late. A few back-to-back turnovers gave Amherst free points, keeping them in striking distance to foul. They got it down to six with a Soulsby three-pointer with 1:21 remaining, but Almond-Bancroft sunk free throws, putting the game on ice.
The Eagles improved their record to 7-1, while Amherst fell to 3-4 this season.