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Girls basketball: Amherst Regional qualifies for postseason for first time since 2012

  • Petua Mukimba, left, of Amherst Regional, looks for a shot while defended by Katie Dold, of Monson, Tuesday at Amherst Regional. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Petua Mukimba, front, of Amherst Regional, eyes the basket as she drives past Kelsey Duggan, of Monson, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Amherst Regional. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Skye Nolan, left, of Amherst Regional, begins a pass against Shannon Jalbert, of Monson, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Amherst Regional. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Madison Layer, right, of Amherst Regional, draws a foul from Kelsey Duggan, of Monson, Tuesday at Amherst Regional. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional coach Dustin James talks to his team during their win against Monson, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Amherst Regional. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Erin Klaes, right, of Amherst Regional, drives to the basket against Kelsey Duggan, of Monson, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Amherst Regional. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mayouri Yath, left, of Amherst Regional, passes against Mia Krupczak, of Monson, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Amherst Regional. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Maddie Shea, left, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball against Mia Krupczak, of Monson, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Amherst Regional. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mayouri Yath, left, of Amherst Regional, shoots against Kelsey Duggan, of Monson, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Amherst Regional. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



For the Gazette
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

AMHERST — Erin Klaes stepped to the foul line for the latter of two shots with under 10 seconds left. Amherst held a five-point lead and Klaes had an opportunity to seal the game and give the Hurricanes their first postseason berth in six years.

Klaes collected herself, received the ball and buried the free throw with no fear. As the final buzzer marked Amherst’s 44-38 victory, the crowd roared with appreciation, knowing that the Hurricanes qualified for the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament.

“It feels great,” Hurricanes coach Dustin James said with a huge smile on his face. “The girls should be proud of their season so far.”

Klaes finished the game with 23 points, 14 of which came in the first quarter. She was the mediator and the reason that Amherst came out of the first with a 15-14 lead. Her first 3-pointer just a couple seconds into the game came from at least 5 feet behind the 3-point line, and set the tone for the Hurricanes offense.

Monson went on a 5-0 run with about two minutes left in the first quarter to break a 9-9 tie. Klaes stormed the Hurricanes back with two 3s in the final minute.

Klaes finished with four 3s in the first quarter to the delight of the crowd.

“That was like our biggest crowd. It felt good,” she said. “Especially with all the shots and the crowd going wild. That was nice.”

Monson ran a 2-1-2 full-court press that created chaos for the Amherst, resulting in several turnovers during the first. However, from the second quarter on, the Hurricanes settled down and solved the press.

Klaes was kept quiet, but Petua Mukimba started to heat up. She scored all but two of her team’s nine second-quarter points, and was a force down low. She used her post-up ability to create opportunities and cleared the boards on the defensive end.

“We wanted to make sure we protected the inside, but we knew that rebounding was really important,” James said.

Going into the third, the Hurricanes held a 24-18 lead. Monson pulled with four, but a pivotal 3-pointer from Skye Nolan with 3:10 remaining helped build the lead, and another with one minute left stretched it to 36-28 heading into the final quarter.

Defensively, Amherst’s ability to box out and contest Monson’s 3-point shooting aided in building the lead.

“They (Monson) take a lot of long shots, and long rebounds were going to come from that,” James said. “Relying on our rebounding effort was huge tonight and that happened.”

Amherst staved off any late-game comebacks from the Mustangs and punched their ticket to the postseason.

The Hurricanes (8-11, 4-3 Central) clinched second place in the league to qualify.

“(This game) should tremendously boost our confidence,” James said. “We really have pushed forward and made really great progress. It will push us even farther.”

The ‘Canes will go into the postseason with no experience, but Klaes is optimistic in how her team will perform.

“I feel like this is a good confidence booster,” she said. “We can do it. The teams we are going to face, we can beat them too.”