Coach Mike Battaglia tried to down play the significance of Friday night’s huge nonleague contest between his Park Pioneers and nearby Amherst High School.
He tried to tell his team it’s just another game, nothing out of the ordinary.
Yeah, right. His team didn’t buy that either.
What Park did do was take its game to another level when it was staring defeat in the face and pulled out another impressive victory during its unbeaten start to the season.
Last year’s state Federataion Class B champions defeated Amherst, 67-61, before a sellout crowd of more than 1,200 at Depew High School to cap the second day of action in the ADPRO Public/Private Schools Challenge.
Much like Thursday’s opening day, the final game of the second day of the three-day event proved to be the best of the bunch.
Hunter Anderson scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Pioneers (5-0), who are ranked No. 2 in the News’ Large School poll. Jordan Nwora, a former Amherst Tiger, overcame a slow start and made the hustle, clutch plays in the fourth quarter to spark Park’s 21-9 final quarter. Nwora scored eight of his 17 in the fourth quarter, including a five-point stretch that turned Amherst’s 52-51 lead into a 56-52 edge Park never relinquished. He also made the defensive play of the game with 1:59 left and the Pioneers leading by three. TC Brown stole the ball near midcourt from Nwora and seemed to have a chance at the layup but Nwora caught him from behind and blocked the layup try cleanly to prevent the basket. He followed with his final trey of the game seconds later to make it 63-57.
Nathan Woldu led Amherst with 18 points, while Brown finished with 14 and Bona commit Amadi Ikpeze had 11. The third-ranked Tigers dropped to 6-1.