Among the remarkable performances worthy of praise in the Section VI Class A-2 final, one stood taller than the rest.
Amadi Ikpeze, the St. Bonaventure-bound center standing 6-foot-10 for top-seeded Amherst, is surrounded by a group of gifted guards and forwards but he stepped to the forefront on Saturday. Ikpeze led his Tigers back in the second half and finished with a triple-double to stop upstart No. 3 Lew-Port in its tracks.
After Lew-Port’s Jernard Jackson effortlessly racked up 26 first-half points, Ikpeze countered with 19 in the second half. He finished with 30 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 12 blocks to lead Amherst (22-1) to an 84-76 victory over the Lancers and its first Section VI Class A-2 championship since 2013.
“There’s a reason why he is a Division I kid,” said Amherst head coach Chris Kensy. “He has a good head on his shoulders and he’s 6-foot-10. He told me he’d own the boards and the defensive side, and he did.
“I’m just very proud of him because sometimes being the big guy around a lot of guards you may not get the touches that you’d like, but it showed how important he is to our success tonight. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Lew-Port’s Jackson finished the night with 35 points, dropping Kobe Bryant-esque jump shots from every corner of the court to help the Lancers jump out to a 44-40 halftime advantage.
Upset alert? It seemed possible after coach Matt Bradshaw’s Lancers broke a 22-22 second-quarter tie and held the lead until the end of the third quarter. But Amherst’s Da’Shawn Hines finished a nifty left-handed layup to give the Tigers a lead it would never surrender.
Nathan Waldu (19 points, 10 boards) scored 12 fourth-quarter points that included a fast-break one-hand slam. But it was Ikpeze’s two-handed rim-rocker that put the cherry on top of a sweet victory.
“My mindset was just rebounding,” Ikpeze said. “I didn’t care about scoring. The offensive rebounds came. ... that’s all I needed to do.”
Much of Jackson’s game-high in points came in the opening frames, a continuation of sorts of the junior guard’s 29-point outburst that ended with a game-winning shot in the semifinals.
“A lot of people don’t really know who I am so I decided since there was a lot of people there to let them know who I am today,” Jackson said.
However, it was Ikpeze’s paint presence that led to a triple-double in the biggest of games and kept the Tigers calm.
Amherst’s T.C. Brown etched his name alone at the top of the school’s career points list with 1,465, passing the previous mark by one point. He had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Donald Allender scored 16 points for Lew-Port while Dawson Bailey added 14-