Amius’ clutch dunk lifts Cats over Mountaineers

Catamount forward Mike Amius drives and makes the layup on Mountaineer forward Griffin Kinney. Photo by Chris Lang. Dec. 4.

The Catamounts men’s basketball team pulled away in the closing seconds with a slam dunk by junior forward Mike Amius to beat its arch rival the Appalachian State Mountaineers 72-71 in a close contest on Monday night, Dec. 4, at the Ramsey Center.

In the 191st meeting between these two rivals dating back to the 1928-1929 season, the Catamounts made it four straight wins against the Mountaineers. Appalachian State are still winning the series against the Cats 118-73, but haven’t beaten the Catamounts in three straight years. At home, the Catamounts currently have five straight home victories against the Mountaineers.

The crowd was electric the whole game with a huge turnout for the Catamounts as fans were on their feet for most of this tightly contested ball game having the Ramsey Center rocking.

“Such an amazing turnout for tonight’s game. Catamount nation really provided a home atmosphere. At times I couldn’t even hear my players and coaches sitting next to me,” said WCU coach Larry Hunter.

WCU Deriece Parks with Craig Hinton guarding him. Photo by Chris Lang, Dec. 4, 2017.

Amius and senior guard Deriece Parks led the way for the Cats as they combined for 39 of the Catamounts 72 points. Amius provided and inside presence in which the Mountaineers had no answer for, going 8-13 shooting in the paint. Parks sparked the Catamounts with red hot shooting from beyond the arc going 6-8 in the game. 

“Parks was able to give us those crucial points when we needed them down the stretch,” said Hunter.

It was a tight game from the get go. In the first half of action there were 7 lead changes and the Mountaineers had its largest lead of 8 points. App State started off by dominating the paint scoring 18 of their 30 points inside lead by junior forward Tyrell Johnson  who finished off the half with 8 points and 4 rebounds. For the Cats, Parks was on fire and gave some relief as he went 4-6 from three helping the Catamounts maintain a one point lead going into the half with his 12 points all coming from three point range.

The second was just as, if not more, entertaining than the first half with 7 more lead changes, but the Catamounts led most of the

Mike Amius posting up Tyrell Johnson. Photo by Chris Lang, Dec. 4.

second half. The Cats outscored the Mountaineers 20-14 in the paint due in large part to Amius dominating the paint putting up 10 of his 19 points in the second half.

With 1:39 left in the game, the Mountaineers took a late lead with senior forward Craig Hinton making a layup to jump out ahead 71-70. With 29 seconds left in the game,the Mountaineers’ leading scorer, Ronshad Shabazz, went to the line for a chance to give them a three point cushion with a late foul by Catamount sophomore forward, Onno Steger, but failed to capitalize giving the Catamounts one last chance with 16 seconds left in the game.

Amius took over and with the game on the line slammed it down with 7 seconds left giving the Cats a one point lead and ultimately winning the game.

“They didn’t have an answer for Amius and he gave us an inside presence that we needed,” said Hunter.

Video of the last 16 seconds of the WCU vs. App State game taken by Chris Lang.

Catamount fans were ecstatic about the win with fans screaming and cheering as the game ended. WCU senior, Charles Hadley, like a lot of fans, was surprised about the win. “I was surprised they won but it always seems that Western plays their best when it’s App State.”

“I like my team, I like our approach, I like our leadership and we have a chance to be a good competitive team we just have to keep humble and keep working,” said Hunter.

The Catamounts next game will be a tough one as it goes up against the 11th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Catamounts hope to use its momentum to possibly pull off the upset.