MIAA Div. 2 boys basketball: No. 35 Archbishop Williams knocks off Amherst, 63-62, in overtime

Amherst’s Brandon Stewart (21), left, drives to the hoop over Sci-Tech’s Jeremiah Rivera (24) in the fourth quarter earlier this season in Amherst.

Amherst’s Brandon Stewart (21), left, drives to the hoop over Sci-Tech’s Jeremiah Rivera (24) in the fourth quarter earlier this season in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 02-28-2024 9:42 PM

AMHERST — Amherst had the play drawn up. The Hurricanes were going to set a screen and have senior captain Ryder Rietkerk curl off of it with another option behind the 3-point line. 

But Archbishop Williams blew it up, and Brandon Stewart’s 30-footer at the buzzer clanged off the rim, ending the Hurricanes’ season in the preliminary round of the Division 2 boys basketball state tournament.

No. 30 Amherst (9-12) led for almost the entire game, but couldn’t hold off a late run from No. 35 Archbishop Williams (11-10) as the the defending Division 3 state champions forced overtime and then eked out a 63-62 win at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School Wednesday night.

“We were supposed to finish this game off, we really were,” Amherst head coach Jamahl Jackson said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”

Timely free-throw shooting by Archbishop Williams and untimely free-throw shooting from Amherst ultimately doomed the ’Canes. Archbishop Williams also had a 12-to-five advantage in free-throw attempts across the fourth quarter and overtime.

With Amherst down 59-58 with just 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Rietkerk was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer, sending him to the line for three opportunities to tie the game and take the lead. The senior missed the first two, but made the third to send the game to an extra session.

On the flip side, Bishops point guard Tristan Rodriguez knocked down eight of his nine free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime, part of his game-leading 32 points. He picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, but never came out of the game and never saw a fifth foul.

He hit two crucial shots from the stripe with 7.2 seconds left in regulation to turn a one-point deficit into a one-point lead, Archbishop Williams’ first of the half. He also hit two free-throws midway through overtime to give the Bishops a 63-61 lead they would not relinquish. Amherst big man Sam Woodruff had a chance to tie it from the line about halfway through overtime, but only made one of two shots, and the score remained 63-62 for the rest of the period.

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Between the fourth quarter and overtime, Rodriguez outscored Amherst by himself.

“Heartbreak,” Jackson said. “I thought in regulation when we had a little bit of a cushion of a lead, that was our opportunity to close the game out. I thought (it was) carelessness, a couple positions where we shot too quick.”

After a frenetic pace from both teams in the first three quarters, Amherst couldn’t slow the game down in the final minutes as Archbishop Williams gradually chipped away at the deficit, before taking their first lead of the half on Rodriguez’s free-throws with 7.2 seconds left. 

Instead of making extra passes to try and drain the clock, Jackson was disappointed that the ’Canes often took the first or second shot presented to them, especially when their lead grew to as much as nine points early in the fourth quarter. 

“The score, the time of the game, everything is in our favor right now, so when we turn them over, we have to be the most disciplined right now,” Jackson said.

That had been a working recipe earlier in the game but it didn’t work in the final minutes with the clock running down and Archbishop Williams desperately trying to score as quickly as they could.

And in overtime, both teams were gassed. After Archbishop Williams and Amherst combined for 118 points in the 32 regulation minutes, they only scored a total of seven in the four minutes of overtime.

Amherst ends its season on a three-game skid, with losses to Pope Francis, Northampton and Archbishop Williams by a combined six points. Jackson believes the Hurricanes’ final record doesn’t reflect their play on the court.

“I thought we were a little bit better than a .500 team,” Jackson said. “...I just don’t believe it’s indicative of our team.”

Northampton 54, Hingham 50 — Trailing by five heading into the fourth quarter, the No. 26 Blue Devils stormed from behind and out-scored No. 39 Hingham 21-12 to advance in the Division 2 state tournament with a home-court preliminary round win on Wednesday night.

Northampton earns a date with No. 7 Sharon in the Round of 32. That game is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.

To no surprise, senior Silas Coles and junior Naihmond Peters-Wolfe led the way offensively with 20 points apiece for the Blue Devils, combining for all six of Northampton’s 3-pointers. Jackson Lockett added 10 points while Luke McGrath and JJ Moore chipped in two points each.

The Blue Devils outscored Hingham 36-25 in the second half to propel them to victory.

Boys hockey

Pope Francis 12, Medford 1 — An offensive outburst saw the No. 2 Cardinals cruise to a blowout victory over No. 31 Medford in the Division 1 Round of 32 on their home ice Wednesday night.

Pope Francis – which features several players from Hampshire County schools in its co-op – advances to the Sweet Sixteen, where it will host the winner of No. 15 Shrewsbury and No. 18 Arlington Catholic at a date and time to be announced.