The Amherst High School boys basketball team was unable to overcome a record-setting performance by fifth-ranked Auburndale, as it fell in a WIAA Division 4 State Semifinal at the Kohl Center in Madison Thursday, March 7.
The Falcons trailed 14-4 at the end of the first quarter and 24-15 at halftime, as Auburndale connected on 64.7 percent of its shots in the first half.
Auburndale (26-2) continued to roll on offense in the second half, as it set a Division 4 State Tournament record by hitting 64.3 percent of its shots from the field, on the way to a 49-29 victory that ended Amherst’s season at 22-4.
“They shot it well and we didn’t shoot well,” said 29th-year Amherst boys basketball head coach Gregg Jensen. “You don’t want to do it on this stage, you’d rather it happen in a gym where there are not too many people, but this happened in a state game.
“But I told the kids, ‘if you have to lose and you have to go out, this is a good place to go out,’” said Jensen.
In their first appearance at the State Tournament since 1998, the Falcons took on Auburndale in a rematch of last season’s Regional Final.
Last year Amherst pulled off a 43-39 upset at Auburndale, as Auburndale standout forward Austin Hawkins was saddled with foul trouble and finished with eight points in the loss.
In the State Semifinal on Thursday, Auburndale jumped out to a 9-2 lead with 3:26 left in the first quarter, and after a jumper from Amherst senior point guard Jonathan Konkol made it 9-4 with 3:12 left, Auburndale answered with five consecutive points to close out the first quarter with a 14-4 lead.
Amherst senior forward Marcus Jensen opened the second-quarter scoring with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 14-7, but Hawkins responded with four consecutive baskets to lead an 8-2 run that gave Auburndale a 22-9 advantage with 2:12 left in the first half.
After back-to-back layups from senior guard/forward Caleb Glennon, freshman center Tyler Biadasz scored on a put-back just before the second-quarter buzzer to close out a 6-2 spurt and pull the Falcons within 24-15 at halftime.
“We were down nine, but we’ve still got an opportunity,” said coach Jensen, whose team shot 36.8 percent from the field in the first half compared to 64.7 percent for Auburndale. “You’ve got to shoot well, and you want to get that gap down to maybe six or so at the end of the (third) quarter.
“But when we did knock down a shot or two (in the second half), they came back and countered,” said coach Jensen.
Amherst hung tough early in the third quarter, as a pair of jumpers from Glennon made it 27-19 with 4:32 left.
However, Auburndale answered with a 10-2 run to close out the quarter with a 37-21 lead, as Hawkins had 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting at that point.
The Falcons opened the fourth quarter with a jumper and a pair of free throws from senior forward Joel Biadasz to make it 37-25 with 6:06 left, but Auburndale answered with a three-pointer to go up 40-25 with 4:24 to play.
Amherst was unable to get any closer after that, as Auburndale scored seven of its final nine points from the free-throw line to close out the 49-29 win to advance to the State Championship Game and end the Falcons’ season.
Glennon finished with 14 points and four rebounds to lead Amherst, which shot 28.6 percent from the field and didn’t have another player with more than one field goal in the game.
“Their shots were falling, and ours were not the whole game,” said Glennon. “We just didn’t make plays that we usually did all year.”