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Amherst handles East Longmeadow in WMass Division 1 boys basketball quarterfinals

  • Meikyle Murray, second from right, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball between East Longmeadow defenders Donovan Cordero, left, and Jeric Cichon as Seth Bella-Hunter blocks Thursday in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Thomas Perry, of Amherst Regional, shoots against East Longmeadow, Thursday in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tajahn Joyner, left, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball against Tyler Dumas, of East Longmeadow, Thursday in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Meikyle Murray, center, of Amherst Regional, drives to the baskt between East Longmeadow defenders Donovan Cordero, left, and Jason Ayala, Thursday in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Meikkel Murray, left, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball against Donovan Cordero, of East Longmeadow, Thursday in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Meikyle Murray, left, of Amherst Regional, passes against Donovan Cordero, of East Longmeadow, Thursday in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Seth Bella-Hunter, right, of Amherst Regional, wins a rebound against Nick Michalski, of East Longmeadow, Thursday in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst’s Will Budington, from left, Thomas Perry and Seth Bella-Hunter react Thursday in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Thursday, March 02, 2017

AMHERST — When the Amherst Regional boys basketball team first took a 10-point lead over East Longmeadow, Hurricanes coach Jim Matuszko called a timeout.

There were 2 minutes, 35 seconds until halftime. He challenged his team to not let it get below 10.

“I never felt comfortable in this game,” Matuszko said. “This game’ll turn quickly if it gets below 10.”

The lead went below 10 and fluctuated to as high as 17, but No. 2 Amherst kept the No. 7 Spartans at arms length.

The Hurricanes won 74-68 on Thursday in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament quarterfinals at Amherst Middle School. Amherst (16-5) will play No. 3 Northampton (15-6) in the semifinals.

“That’s a rivalry. Playing them is always tough,” Amherst senior Meikkel Murray said.

Murray helped Amherst build its lead. He scored 12 of his team-high 20 points in the first quarter. Nearly all 20 came at the rim on layups with four free throws and a jump shot mixed in.

“(Getting the ball inside) has been our goal all year,” Matuszko said.

The Hurricanes worked the ball into Murray and Seth Bella-Hunter, who finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks.

“They were killing us on the glass,” East Longmeadow coach Pat Ochoa said. “We gave up a lot of second-chance points.”

Once the Hurricanes established their two leading scorers inside, it opened up the 3-point line. Will Budington hit three 3s in the third quarter en route to 14 points, and Amherst turned a 10-point halftime lead to 54-37 after three quarters.

“He was heating up,” Murray said. “Any time he’s heating up, we have to swing the ball.”

That burst staggered the Spartans, but they cut the lead to 71-64 in the game’s final 1:13. Jeric Cichon was a big part of it. He scored 34 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter.

East Longmeadow hit eight 3s.

“The 3 is the great equalizer,” Ochoa said. “Unfortunately we didn’t hit enough tonight.”

Tajahn Joyner had 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and made three free throws down the stretch.

“We kept our heads up,” Bella-Hunter said. “We just wanted to seal it there at the end.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.

Amherst Regional 74,
East Longmeadow 68

East Longmeadow (10-11)

Cichon 10-12-34, Ayala 1-0-2, Dumas 2-0-5, Lindsay 4-4-13, Cordero 5-1-14. Totals 22-17-68

Amherst (16-5)

Joyner 4-6-15, Budington 5-0-14, Meikyle Murray 2-1-6, Perry 0-0-0, Bella-Hunter 6-7-19, Meikkel Murray 8-4-20, Blanchard 0-0-0. Totals 25-18-74

 

East Longmeadow

14

13

17

24

—68

Amherst

20

17

19

18

—74

3-Pointers—East Longmeadow 8 (Cichon 2, Dumas, Lindsay 2, Cordero 3), Amherst 6 (Budington 4, Joyner, Meikyle Murray)