| The Enterprise
WHITMAN – The dynamic one-two punch the Whitman-Hanson High boys basketball team possesses in senior stars Nate Amado and Cole LeVangie command nearly all of an opponent’s attention, and rightfully so.
But in its opening round Patriot League Cup matchup with the Panthers Saturday, North Quincy found out the hard way that Whitman-Hanson is far from a two-man team.
Amado and LeVangie took a backseat to junior guard Amari Jamison, who made the biggest impact in leading the Panthers to their 33rd straight win dating back to last season as Jamison canned six 3-pointers and poured in a career-high 26 points in a 68-58 victory over the Raiders.
While Jamison starred, he wasn’t the only member of Whitman-Hanson’s supporting cast to provide a vital lift as juniors Ryan Vallancourt (9 points, 8 assists) and Malcolm Alcorn-Crowder (9 points) each made strong contributions. Amado finished with 18 points in the win, while LeVangie scored 4 points and dished out 8 assists.
“No. 42 (Amado) and No. 33 (LeVangie) aren’t going to be around much longer,” said Whitman-Hanson coach Bob Rodgers. “We need these other guys to step up and want to get it done.”
Jamison didn’t hesitate to take over the contest with North Quincy (7-4) focusing on Amado and LeVangie. North Quincy went as far as playing a triangle-and-two defense in the first half to keep Amado and LeVangie at bay. While that somewhat mitigated the terrific tandem, the defensive strategy practiced social-distancing guidelines when it can to Jamison.
Left open, Jamison wreaked havoc, scoring on a traditional three-point play before knocking down three 3-pointers in the first quarter to stake Whitman-Hanson (10-0) to an 18-11 advantage. Jamison kept having plenty of room to operate and splashed in two more treys by the midway point of the second quarter.
“I felt as I was shooting, the rim was getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Jamison said. “They were leaving me open, so I was going to shoot. I was like, ‘This is like practice shots. I’m just going to keep shooting.’”
Jamison and Vallancourt sparked an 11-1 second-quarter run with their superb outside shooting as Vallancourt connected on two triples during the spurt. Jamison ended up accounting for nearly half of Whitman-Hanson’s first half point production as he netted 20 points in the first 16 minutes to give the Panthers a commanding 42-25 halftime lead.
“Jamison was the difference,” said North Quincy coach Kevin Barrett. “Coming in we made a concerted effort to try to limit LeVangie and Amado, and I think we did that within reason. We figured if we load up on them and we leave a couple guys open, we’ll make them make some shots and Jamison did, particularly in that first half.”
Jamison showed tremendous growth in putting together his sensational performance. Once bogged down by the little things that can go awry during the course of action, Jamison now rarely lets anything take him off his game.
“As he’s gotten better at dealing with the adversity that basketball brings, he has played great,” Rodgers said. “When he’s not in his own head, he’s fantastic. … It’s a testament to where he was to where he is now. It’s huge.”
While the ability of Amado and LeVangie to work well together has led to success, Jamison has formed his own solid tandem with Vallancourt while also receiving help from Alcorn-Crowder, who is steadying inside presence.
The backcourt mates combined to make nine of the Panthers 14 3-pointers – out of the team’s 27 attempts – against the Raiders as Vallancourt routinely made the right pass to spring Jamison for open looks.
“He and Ryan Vallancourt together have forged a great relationship,” Rodgers said. “The two of them together make each other better.”
Jamison understands why he isn’t a focal point yet of an opponent’s defensive game plan like Amado and LeVangie. Amado is a proven high-volume scorer with incredible range, averaging 24.5 points per game this season while LeVangie’s a sensational playmaker able to score at will, too.
The attention that gets paid to them creates opportunities for Jamison and his teammates and leaves them wanting to prove that they can be counted on.
“They deserve it,” said Jamison of team’s zeroing in on Amado and LeVangie. “(The supporting cast) we’re underdogs. All the other players can contribute, too. So they’ll give us an advantage.”
But no matter the role each player on Whitman-Hanson is slotted into, it doesn’t change their approach.
“If you just came and watched us practice, you wouldn’t be able pick out the starters based on the effort because they all just give it tremendous effort no matter what,” Rodgers said.