Tatyjana Scalisi nervously sang the national anthem before Wednesday night’s girls basketball game at Williamsville South.
When it was over, Scalisi skipped into the locker room to join the celebratory sing-along with her teammates.
"It sounds like they're having fun in there," she said.
Scalisi scored the tying basket on a runner in the lane with two seconds left in regulation and Williamsville South held on for a 72-71 overtime victory over Amherst, handing The News’ No. 2-ranked large school its first loss of the season.
Sophomore pillar Amari DeBerry dominated inside for the Billies, scoring 34 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the third-ranked large school in Western New York won the rematch of last year’s Section VI Class A championship without junior point guard Hannah Dolan, who sat out with a concussion.
Scalisi, an All-WNY soccer player headed to the University at Buffalo next year and a basketball co-captain with Dolan, contributed 20 points, eight rebounds (six offensive), four assists and four steals. In Monday night’s win at Hamburg, the 5-foot-11 Scalisi had 13 points and 24 rebounds (13 offensive).
“She’s our X-factor, she really is,” coach Kristen Dolan said. “She just brings so much energy, second- and third-chance opportunities, and she’s the first one to run through a brick wall for you. And the girls can feed off that.”
“Tatyjana is our secret weapon,” DeBerry said. “She’s a beast inside and she’s so smart with the ball.”
Sophomores Ella Wanzer (25 points, seven rebounds, four steals), Emma Klein (12 points, six assists, four steals) and Paige Stelley (13 points) led the way for Amherst (8-1, 5-1 ECIC II).
“We always say, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Amherst coach Mike Chatelle said. “We’re just learning from it. We are going to come back better, stronger, hungrier and humbler.”
The Tigers led for much of regulation after South opened the game with a 7-0 spurt. Amherst took control with a 19-2 run late in the first quarter.
DeBerry, wearing pink and blue Big Baller Brand sneakers gifted to her by LaVar Ball after they met Sunday at Villa Maria College, scored 13 points in the second quarter to lead South back from a 10-point deficit.
Amherst built its lead to 48-40 entering the fourth quarter and was ahead 60-53 before missing four free throws in the final 30 seconds to facilitate South’s late rally.
After Sarah Foster (eight points) made a pair of shots from the foul line for the Billies, DeBerry hit her only 3-pointer of the night with 18.1 seconds left in regulation.
Standing 6-foot-5 with long arms, sound footwork and the ability to finish with either hand, DeBerry presents a giant mismatch for nearly all of her high school opponents but has expanded her perimeter game to boost her already blue-chip recruiting stock.
“She’s an inside-outside player now,” Dolan said. “She’s got a beautiful jump shot. When she knows she’s feeling it and she gets it on the perimeter and they aren’t coming out on her, she better take that shot.”
Trailing 60-58 with six seconds left on the clock, Scalisi ripped down the rebound from a missed free throw and dribbled up the floor looking for DeBerry before deciding to keep the ball and take the tying shot herself.
“I knew how much time was left and I knew it was really important that I had to do something,” Scalisi said. “I put my speed to the test and thankfully the shot fell in.”
DeBerry scored the first basket of overtime, Scalisi added a putback on South’s next possession and the Billies never trailed in the extra session. Riley Domin buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 15 seconds left that gave South a four-point lead. Wanzer knocked one in from half court with 1.5 seconds on the clock, but the Tigers were unable to foul and stop the clock again.
Eighth-grader Gretchen Dolan filled in for her injured sister, steadying the offense and contributing six points, four assists and five steals.
“She did phenomenally,” DeBerry said. “You’d never know she’s 14-years old, but when it comes to basketball, age doesn’t matter. She played really well and I’m really proud of her."
South beat Amherst three times by an average margin of 18 points on its way to the state semifinals last season, including a 62-43 triumph in the sectional finals.
But the Tigers staked their claim as one of the top teams in the area this year with a 68-63 win over Cardinal O’Hara at the season-opening Pastor Cooper Showcase and has seven more victories by an average of more than 39 points.
The Billies, meanwhile, battled through a tough nonleague schedule that handed them four losses, but now sit atop the ECIC II standings at 6-0.
“It’s a big win for us,” Scalisi said. “We’re all excited. People have been doubting us, but now I think we’ve really proven to people that we have the potential to make it back to states.”