And they made the most of it.
Playing against a Westlake team that entered the game just one game out of first place in the Southwestern Conference standings, Amherst pulled off its biggest upset of the season, defeating the Demons 61-58.
Amherst (10-10, 3-8) trailed 23-11 after Westlake went on a 15-0 run that carried from the end of the first quarter into the second.
The Comets then used a pair of 3-pointers by Danny Fortney, a 3-point shot by Adam Srnis, a Shane Derricotte putback and a Garrett Klekota field goal to close the quarter on a 13-5 run to trail kust 28-24 at halftime.
“This is big, no doubt about it,” Amherst coach John Srnis said. “That spurt before halftime got us back within striking distance. We started doing the little things right in the last part of the second quarter and we were able to keep that momentum going all the way through the second half.”
Westlake (14-3, 7-3) extended its lead to seven early in the third quarter on a Makis Beach 3-pointer, but had to keep fighting off Amherst as the teams traded baskets.
Gavin Skelly (20 points, 10 rebounds) bulled his way down the lane and threw down a two-handed big first-half dunk that gave the Demons a 37-33 lead before Amherst closed the quarter with a 9-4 run to take a 42-41 lead into the fourth.
“This is the first time I’ve ever beaten Westlake in my entire life,” said Klekota, who finished with 16 points. “The second half was probably the best half we’ve ever played.
“We started outhustling them. That’s what you have to do against that team. They’re bigger than us. They probably have more talent than us, top to bottom, but when you outwork any team then you can have a fight with them and stay with them, and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Comets were able to build a seven-point lead after a Rees Rua field goal and a 3-pointer by Srnis (11 points) with a little more than two minutes left.
Beach kept the Demons close with a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that cut the deficit to 56-53 before Joe Hadib-Nissan’s potential game-tying 3-pointer was off the mark and Fortney grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Fortney, who led the Comets with 20 points, connected on both free throws to push the Amherst lead to 58-53 with 24 seconds left.
Westlake was not done, however. Skelly’s putback with 7.3 seconds left made it a three-point game.
That’s when Klekota came up clutch again, this time from the line. He connected on two free throws to make it a 60-55 game with 6.3 seconds left.
Beach connected on another 3-pointer with three seconds left to make it a two-point game. Fotney was immediately fouled, splitting a pair from the line to give Westlake one last chance.
But Hadib-Nissan’s desperation heave hit the ceiling in the gym to end the game.
“Amherst played great,” Westlake coach Shawn Hood said. “To say that we were terrible would be a slap in their face. They’re very well-coached. They have good players. They’ve been close to beating good teams all year long. It was just a matter of time.
“Amherst is the reason why we lost the game. They shot the ball well. They executed well. They defended us well. They defended Skelly very, very well.
That’s why they won the game.”
Contact Steve Walker at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Amherst 61, Westlake 58
WESTLAKE (58): Joe Hadib-Nissan 6-0-14, Makis Beach 4-0-11, Connor Meek 0-0-0, Gavin Skelly 9-2-20, Cameron Brown 1-1-3, Anthony Trujillo 3-0-8, Danny Slavik 1-0-2, Josh Gibson 0-0-0, Andris Balodis 0-0-0. Totals 24-3-58.
AMHERST (61): Adam Srnis 3-2-11, Antonio Serrano 2-0-4, Danny Fortney 7-3-20, Rees Rua 3-0-6, Garrett Klekota 6-3-16, Matt Kneisel 0-0-0, Shane Derricotte 2-0-4, Anthony Eliopoulos 0-0-0, Casey McConihe 0-0-0. Totals 23-8-61.
Westlake 14 14 13 17 — 58
Amherst 11 13 18 19 — 61
Three-point goals: Westlake 7-23 (Beach 3, Hadib-Nissan 2, Trujillo 2), Amherst 7-24 (Srnis 3, Fortney 3, Klekota). Field goals: Westlake 24-60 (40 percent), Amherst 23-54 (43 percent). Free throws: Westlake 3-4 (75 percent), Amherst 8-11 (73 percent). Rebounds: Westlake 39 (Skelly 10, Brown 8, Hadib-Nissan 8), Amherst 27 (Klekota 6). Total fouls: Westlake 12, Amherst 9. Turnovers: Westlake 15, Amherst 12.
Junior varsity: Amherst, 68-44