Falcons grind out regional quarterfinal win over Irish
By Jacob Heid
Everything seems to get a little more interesting when the playoffs roll around.
For the No. 7-seeded Amherst boys’ basketball team, the regional quarterfinal vs. No. 10-seeded Freedom on Feb. 28 was the beginning of what they wanted to accomplish.
Nothing came easy in a 62-55 win over the Irish to advance to the regional semifinals.
Senior Tyler Soulsby is one of the heartbeats of this team and explained after the win that the team just needed to hit the refresh button after a tough end to the regular season.
“We had a rough ending against Weyauwega-Fremont, so we just had to find a way to bounce back,” Soulsby said. “We knew there was no way we were coming in here playing like that and winning this game.”
The game opened with physicality and remained that way until the final buzzer.
A slow start by the Falcons got turned around by senior leadership.
Soulsby hit two straight 3s to give Amherst some life, while Matthew Glodowski sprinkled in five first-half points for the Falcons.
Amherst still trailed by two, 26-24, at the break.
“I saw that they were taking away drift passes, and that was their defensive memo. I was like, ‘We can’t do that, we have to get the next pass up,’” Soulsby said about adjusting in the first half. “It created so many openings for our guys to get layups, 3-pointers and whatever we wanted.”
Coach Phil Jagielo knows what he has with his players. He was proud of their fight through the first half.
“Even when it wasn’t going our way, we had that look in our eye, we had that edge,” Jagielo stated. “[The team] had a tremendous amount of belief, and just to reiterate, I’m just so proud of our guys.”
A back-and-forth start to the second half had Amherst and Freedom within one possession of each other.
The Falcons got the Irish to six team fouls with over 12 minutes left to play, which became a huge advantage.
A 44-42 Amherst spread to 49-42 with 5:52 remaining, after Spencer Cohen drilled a 3 and Glodwoski dropped a breakaway layup.
Roughly, the last five minutes were the most important for the Falcons to sustain their lead.
“At about the five-minute mark, we just talked about trying to grind them out. We practice the 10-pass drill, where there are really no fouls,” Jagielo said. “You just have to be extremely tough with the basketball and we tried to implement that strategy and shorten the game.”
Amherst got a huge win and will have another strong test come Friday, March 3, in the regional semifinal game at No. 2-seeded Little Chute.
“We’re looking forward to a chance to go play a quality team. I know they are a top-10 team in the state. They are good, physical and they play tough.”