It took a while for Amherst coach Chris Kensy to come out of the locker room following Tuesday night’s Section VI Overall Class A final.
He had nothing but complimentary things to say about Williamsville South and the Billies’ defensive effort before an estimated 2,000 fans at Buffalo State Sports Arena and with good reason.
South (21-3) frustrated the Tigers (22-2) with its disciplined defensive strategy, a plan that held Amherst to a season-low point total and enabled the Billies to earn a spot in the Far West Regionals for the second year in a row.
Williamsville South defeated Amherst, 52-42, in a showdown between teams that have been ranked in the top five in Western New York all season. Sophomore Greg Dolan impacted the game in many ways for the triumphant Billies. In addition to scoring a game-high 19 points, he also was part of the defensive plan to shut down Tigers scoring sensation T.C. Brown.
Dolan, who rotated the assignment during the second half with Cody Sanford and Myles Hall after handling it almost exclusively during the opening 16 minutes, limited Brown to just 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting.
In addition to negating Brown, the Billies also found a way to reduce the effectiveness of future St. Bonaventure Bonnie Amadi Ikpeze. South’s Matt Foster, a 6-foot-4 All-Western New York first team football player, handled the assignment on the 6-10 Ikpeze and limited him to 11 points one game after he posted a triple-double that included a 31-point effort.
“I thought it was our grittiest performance of the year,” fourth-year South coach Gabe Michael said. “They’re a great rebounding team so we really had to go get after it. Foster was huge guarding Amadi, he didn’t really let him get comfortable at all. Cody, Greg and Myles did a great job on TC. … It was just a gritty performance.”
While Canisius, Park, Amherst and even McKinley have taken turns dominating the headlines for much of the seasons, the Billies have calmly gone about their business much like their on-court leader Greg Dolan. They keep their poise and do a lot of things well as a team.
Each instance it came time to mount a response to a Tigers uprising, South did just that. Trailing 12-11 in the closing seconds of the first quarter, Dolan cut inside and scored on a layup just before the buzzer to give the Billies the lead for good.
That sparked a 12-2 run that enabled South to gain some control, hiting a pair of long three-pointers. Foster also scored two points in that stretch.
“We didn’t have our normal shooting day but we overcame it,” said Michael, whose team made 16 of 40 shots but also went 17 for 25 from the foul line.
The Billies found ways to get to the line by attacking the paint without fear. That’s surprising considering that’s Ikpeze’s domain.
“We talked about that,” Michael said. “We couldn’t fear the big guy. Let’s be the aggressor and let’s see what happens and I thought we did a good job at that.”
Amherst only trailed 25-21 at halftime but couldn’t get any closer. The Tigers trailed by five on a few occasions in the fourth quarter. Each time the Billies had an answer to go ahead by three possessions.
“They did a good job of keeping us out of the paint,” Kensy said. “We beat one guy, there would be another guy we’d have to go through. They were able to get to the line more than us (25 free-throw attempts to Amherst’s 11). … That goes to their disciplined defense and hard work.”
Williamsville South’s reward is getting to face the Section V champion Saturday night at Buffalo State with the winner going to Glens Falls.
“It’s an amazing feeling to go back at this time,” Dolan said. “We’re excited for it. We’re going to be ready to play.”