Chris Kensy’s been coaching Amherst boys basketball since 2010, so the annual series against his father’s Maryvale team isn’t quite so nerve-wracking anymore. But Monday marked the first time the father and son had ever met in a playoff game, and lot of those old feelings crept up again.
Fortunately for Chris, his top-seeded Tigers left little doubt on the court. All-Western New Yorker T.C. Brown scored 23 points and St. Bonaventure-bound big man Amadi Ikpeze had 21 as Amherst rolled to a 64-45 victory in the Class A-2 semifinals at Buffalo State.
“It doesn’t get old,” Chris Kensy said of coaching against his father, Mark. “I look forward to it every single time. I know it’s not easy on my mother but we both enjoy it.
“She doesn’t say” which team she’s rooting for, Chris said, “but she’s always wearing maroon” – Maryvale’s color. “She’s his filmer.”
Only two late free throws brought the final score within 20 points, which is an accomplishment in itself. Maryvale is only the third opponent to stay that close to Amherst (21-1) since a loss to Park in mid-December. After the final seconds ticked off, the father and son embraced at the end of the handshake line.
“He said ‘Go get it Saturday.’ He was very complimentary of our team,” Chris said.
Saturday, of course, is the A-2 championship game, where Amherst will meet third-seeded Lew-Port (16-6). The Lancers edged Starpoint on a shot by Jernard Jackson with 7 seconds left in Monday’s other semifinal, 68-67.
After recovering from a 15-point first-half deficit, Starpoint took its first lead of the game with three minutes to go and led by four in the final minute. But four late missed free throws opened the door for Lew-Port, and Jackson made the most of it.
The wiry, 5-foot-9 senior drove right and pulled up for a mid-range jumper from the baseline that hit nothing but net. Starpoint couldn’t answer and Lancer fans mobbed their team on the floor.
“When the shot went up, my heart stopped for a second,” Jackson said.
And when it swished, “everything was just great from there,” he said. “I felt like Kobe Bryant at the moment.”
“Whenever the ball is in Jernard’s hands for the last shot, it’s always a good feeling,” coach Matt Bradshaw said. “We just spread the floor, get Jernard the lane and give him some room to create because … that’s as good as any play I’m going to draw up.”
Jackson was the best player on the floor and had 29 points to show for it. Co-star Dawson Bailey scored 24 and hit four three-pointers, including a 60-footer at the end of the first half.
Lew-Port’s defense turned in a yeoman effort against Starpoint’s 6-4 Christian Nodine and 6-5 Brock Kroening, who were forces in the low post. Nodine scored 26 points and Kroening had 19 but early turnovers and missed chances allowed Lew-Port to surge ahead early and the late missed free throws led to the Spartans’ demise.
A win Saturday would give Lew-Port its first sectional title since 1978. Amherst has more recent unfinished business to attend to.
“This is the fifth straight year we’ve been here and we only have one sectional championship to show for it,” Kensy said. “We’re hungry. I still don’t think we played as good as we can.”