Boys basketball: Balanced Amherst locks down Pittsfield

  • Amherst Regional’s Isa Mahal Castro McCauley puts in a breakaway layup against Pittsfield in the second quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Keidy Cardoso puts in a shot contested by Pittsfield’s Francis Mensah in the fourth quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Sam Kalman (32), right, takes a shot under pressure from Pittsfield’s Carter Mungin (23) in the second quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Nathaniel Mills (22) grabs a rebound against Pittsfield’s Tobias Gaulden-Wheeler (1) in the second quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Isa Mahal Castro McCauley lays the ball up under pressure from Pittsfield’s Carter Mungin in the third quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Ryder Rietkerk puts up a shot against Pittsfield in the third quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Ian Waite (23), left, drives the ball defended by Pittsfield’s Da'Sean Brown (5) in the second quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Sam Kalman puts in a layup against Pittsfield in the fourth quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Evan Stewart (21), left, drives the ball defended by Pittsfield’s Carter Mungin (23) in the third quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional’s Brandon Stewart puts up a shot against Pittsfield in the third quarter Thursday in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/30/2021 10:02:37 PM
Modified: 12/30/2021 10:02:09 PM

AMHERST — Scoring enough to keep up with Pittsfield on Thursday didn’t trouble the Amherst Regional boys basketball team.

But to defeat the Generals, the Hurricanes needed to defend as well as – or better than – they attacked.

They ripped off a 13-3 run late in the second quarter to pull ahead and used an 8-0 run late to put the game away 57-41.

“I’ve been preaching that you can make the game easy if you commit defensively,” Amherst Regional coach Jamahl Jackson said. “If you commit to defending and defending as a team you can create offense off of that.”

The teams largely traded baskets for the first 10 minutes, then Pittsfield’s Nick Bridle canned a 3 to give the Generals a 17-14 lead with 6 minutes, 19 seconds to halftime.

Amherst (3-2) scored 11 points in a row over the next three minutes to grab the game by its neck.

“We really did put some effort and energy into it,” Amherst junior Ian Waite said. “We got a bunch of steals that led to a bunch of nice fast breaks, so that definitely contributed.”

The Hurricanes held a 27-22 halftime advantage. Pittsfield cut it to one possession once in the second half when Da’Sean Brown splashed a 3 make it 34-32 with 3:30 left in the third.

The Generals snatched a steal on the next possession and had a breakaway chance to tie the game for the first time since it was 12-12 at the start of the second. Amherst guard Isa Mahal Castro McCauley had other ideas. He chased down the fast break and swatted the layup attempt to preserve Amherst’s lead. The Hurricanes scored six points in a row to take an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Castro McCauley struggled with his shot for most of the game, scoring six points, but as the second half ticked on he worried less about shooting and more about affecting the game in other ways.

“Defending, rebounding, coming up with loose balls, and he handles the ball just like a point guard, so he can find people,” Jackson said. “He found a way to still be able to impact the game.”

Pittsfield got as close as six in the fourth quarter before the Hurricanes snapped off an 8-0 run to put the game out of reach. Waite made two layups on the fast break, Sam Kalman nailed a jumper and Evan Stewart stuck back an offensive rebound with 2:09 left to make it 53-39.

The Generals called their final timeout, and Amherst rotated through the last of its bench. Eleven Hurricanes scored led by Kalman’s 12.

“We definitely were sharing the ball really well. We were passing unselfishly and making the right decision,” Kalman said.

Five Hurricanes had at least six points. Evan Stewart and Calvin Yorn each contributed eight, while Brandon Stewart scored seven. Waite and Castro McCauley had six each.

“That’s a beautiful thing,” Jackson said. “You love those games where you can get so many guys scoring and contributing, because everybody feels like they’re a part of it.”

The last man off Amherst’s bench received the biggest cheer: senior Keidy Cardoso. He missed the better part of the last two years with injuries and made his season debut in the final minute against Pittsfield. After some forcing, he scored Amherst’s last bucket of the game. The crowd cheered louder for that make than any previous, and the bench erupted like it was a game-winner.

“To be able to get him out there was such a joy,” Jackson said. “They were so happy to finally see somebody who’s just been plagued by injuries to finally, at last, be healthy and be able to get out and contribute.”

He’s not the only piece returning to the Hurricanes lineup. Senior guard Zayd Sadiq is expected back for the team’s next game Monday against Taconic. He led Amherst averaging 12.6 points per game last season and should slide back into the lineup easily as players have defined roles through the first five games.

“He doesn’t feel like he has to come back and put a cape on his back. He can just fit in,” Jackson said. “It gives us another guy who’s going to be able to defend, who’s going to be able to handle the ball and make plays not just for himself, but for other people.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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