Amherst Regional keeps playoffs hopes alive, pulls out overtime win over Chicopee

Saturday, February 22, 2014
AMHERST — The Amherst Regional boys basketball team kept its postseason hopes alive with an electrifying 63-60 overtime win over Chicopee, Monday night.

“I challenged the seniors,” Amherst coach Jim Matuszko said. “I said this is their game, it’s in their hands. They did a hell of a job.”

The seniors were led by Malik Ford, who had 17 points, 21 rebounds, and played fantastic defense, and Tom Cook, who scored 13 points. Each hit a pair of free throws late in overtime to help seal the win.

The Hurricanes (8-8, 3-4 Valley Wheel) got off to a quick start and led 20-7 after the first quarter. In the middle of the second, Chicopee (7-10, 3-4 Valley Wheel) applied a full-court press that became the catalyst of a 12-0 run the Pacers took into halftime.

The Chicopee run continued in the third and resulted in a 30-29 lead with 7:03 left.

But junior guard Isaac Siegel (23 points) broke Amherst out of its slump, scoring 12 points that resulted in a 46-38 Amherst lead heading into the fourth.

“My team was setting good screens and I was able to get open shots,” Siegel said. “When we play well, it’s because we’re playing well defensively. This leads to transition, where I was able to hit some shots.”

Sophomore Jake Midura scored 10 points in the fourth, including seven straight, to pull the Pacers within 48-45 with 4 minutes left. His corner 3-pointer brought Chicopee within one with 2:35 left.

Then, Siegel struck again, hitting a big 3 from the corner that put the Hurricanes up by five.

“He’s been consistent all year for us,” Matuszko said. “He didn’t play last time we faced Chicopee. He was hurt. I think he surprised them, they didn’t know how good could he could be.”

Siegel hit a free throw with 17 seconds left, extending the lead to 53-50. The Amherst defense suffocated the Pacers on their final possession, but senior guard Nick Gutierrez hit a step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer, stunning the rambunctious Amherst crowd.

The Hurricanes seniors stepped up in overtime, as Ford and Cook combined for eight points and, with a one-point lead, helped force a poor Pacer shot with just 4 seconds left.

Amherst got the ball to Siegel and Chicopee immediately fouled. Siegel continued his clutch performance, hitting both from the line putting the Pacers in a three-point hole.

The Amherst defense then forced a Chicopee air ball to end the game.

Amherst must win two of its next three games to qualify for the playoffs.

“We just need the same effort we had tonight,” Matuszko said. “We need to work hard. We’re going to do what we can.”

Amherst faces West Springfield on Thursday, then finishes the season with East Longmeadow and rival Northampton.