Amherst girls basketball pulls away from Sabis to win home finale

For the Gazette
Friday, February 17, 2017

AMHERST — In a difficult season with sometimes little to cheer about, the Amherst Regional girls basketball team sent their fans home happy with a 50-43 win over Sabis in the final home game of the season Thursday.

Following a back and forth second half, Amherst pulled away late when after a pair of free throws, a Bulldogs turnover led to a 3-pointer for Erin Klaes, giving the Hurricanes a 49-43 lead with 1:05 left in the game.

“I’m just extremely proud of their effort and the way they put it together as a team tonight, they really earned the win, and I’m just really proud of them, and they should be proud of themselves too,” Amherst coach Dustin James said.

The Hurricanes struggled early on offense, scoring just seven points, all from the free-throw line, during the opening quarter. Amherst played better in the second quarter, but still trailed 22-17 going into halftime at Amherst Middle School.

Once the third quarter started, Amherst quickly cut into the five-point deficit. Back-to-back layups from Petea Mukimba gave the Hurricanes their first lead of the game with 3:10 remaining in the third.

“I think we played really, really aggressively. We were really close in the first half, but then we pulled ahead and we fought through it all,” Mukimba said. “I think it’s because in the first half our shots weren’t falling, but then eventually we gained our confidence.”

Mukimba came alive in the second half, scoring 13 of her team-high 18 points over the final two frames. Mukimba also hauled in 13 rebounds.

“She’s not only a great basketball player, but an incredible kid, and she really had a great game and showed a lot of poise for an eighth-grader,” James said.

Klaes (13 points) and Karta Khalsa (12) also scored in double figures.

For Sabis, An’janae Washington scored a team-high 18 points, while Safaire Bryant reached double digits with 10 points.

Amherst (3-16, 1-6 Suburban) seemingly spent the entire night at the free-throw line and the Hurricanes made the Bulldogs pay, scoring 23 of their 50 points en route to their first league win.

“It feels great (to get the win) and the way they’ve been playing the last few games, you wouldn’t know that we’ve only had a couple wins. They’ve really battled to the end,” James said.

Mukimba said that it felt extra good to get the win after losing to Sabis 50-38 on the road earlier in the season.

Typically a team’s final home game of the season will be senior night and feature a pre-game ceremony honoring those players who will be graduating this year, but that was not the case for Amherst, which doesn’t have any seniors.

James admitted that it felt a bit odd to not have any players to honor before the game, but that the team’s youth just means the best is yet to come for the Hurricanes.

“Yeah it is a little different, different for me, but it’s something to look forward to, for a bright future,” James said.

Amherst will wrap up its season on Monday when the Hurricanes travel to Chicopee to take on the Pacers, who defeated Amherst 66-42 on Monday.