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By Douglas Sciorra

Unselfish play has led to an incredible win streak: An inside look at Avoca-Prattsburgh basketball and what is next for the school

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If Michael Jordan could make a logo for defense, it would be A-P senior Pacey Hopkins. The Avoca-Prattsburgh team can score in bunches, but their suffocating defense leads to the fast-paced offense. Steve Harrison photo.

By BILL COLLMER, special to the Hornell Sun

In the late 80’s and early 90’s the Avoca and Prattsburgh boys’ basketball teams dominated the Section V small school basketball scene.

In 1988, Avoca Advanced to the Class C State semifinals in Glens Falls. In 1989, they returned to Glens Falls finishing the season 28-0 and winning the Class D New York State championship. In 1990 they would go back for the third straight year, but lost in the state championship game to Alexander Hamilton, 57-54 finishing the season with a record of 25-3. 

In 1991 Prattsburgh went 29-0 and won the New York State Class D Championship. Between the 1991 and 1992 seasons, they won an incredible 48 straight games, which is second all time in Section V history behind Kendall’s 57 game winning streak. Prattsburgh returned to Glens Falls in 1994 but fell in the state semifinals. 

Fast Forward to 2020.

Avoca lost their first game of the year, but won their next 23 straight capturing the Section V Class D1 sectional championship defeating Genesee-Valley. That same weekend, Prattsburgh won the Section V Class D2 championship, defeating Elba, setting up another matchup between the two in the state qualifiers, their third meeting of the year with Avoca winning the first two meetings, 75-62 and 67-64.

A-P sophomore Macoy Putnam can lead his team in scoring, but he also averages 7.0 assists (92 for the season) for the top team in the state.

In front of a packed house in Bath, Avoca would defeat Prattsburgh 56-50 for the third time to advance to the Far Western Regional versus Section VI champion Sherman at Buffalo State College. However, two days before the game and a quest for another state championship banner in Avoca, the season was halted state-wide due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March.

Avoca would finish the season 23-1 and Prattsburgh would finish 18-6 with three of those losses to Avoca. They didn’t know it at the time, but that would be their final game against each other.

A NEW BEGINNING

Prior to the 2020-2021 season, the two schools would merge their sports programs due to declining numbers. 

Prattsburgh won 12 sectional championships overall and Avoca won five sectional championships overall. 

During their first basketball season together in 2021 as Avoca-Prattsburgh, they played a Covid-shortened 11-game season and went 11-0, winning each game by double figures.

The team won the Section V Class D2 Sectional Championship defeating Batavia Notre-Dame, 79-64. Their closest game of the season was a 71-58 win over Canisteo-Greenwood. They averaged 81 points a game and allowed their opponents 43.9 points a game.

Junior Haden Abbott is averaging close to 11 points a game for A-P. Photos by Steve Harrison.

However, the state did not have a post-season and a second straight state title run was off the table.

Could 2021-2022 be the third time and the charm?

A-P is 13-0, ranked No. 1 in New York State Class D and have won all but one game by 20 or more points. The team has a 24-game winning streak and for the Avoca seniors, they haven’t lost in their career, winning 48 straight games.

SCORING POINTS, UNSELFISH PLAY

They’re currently averaging 85 points a game and allowing 47.1 points a game. They scored 102 points in their season opener versus Hammondsport and scored a season high 112 points versus Fillmore. They’ve scored 92 or more three other times. 

Avoca-Prattsburgh coach Brian Putnam has put the two talented teams together with one common goal.

“We have a great group of kids. They are very unselfish, and love playing with each other,” Putnam said. “I love our quickness and ability to defend. We are deep on the bench, and we have a bunch of kids that can score 20 points on any given night. We’re focusing on defense, which is leading to points in transition.”

FILLING UP THE STAT SHEETS

All five starters are averaging double figures led by Senior Pacey Hopkins, who was a starter on Avoca’s 2020 Sectional Championship team and has only lost one game in his three-year varsity career. Hopkins is averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 5.4 steals per game. He scored a season high 33 points this past Saturday in a win over Canisteo-Greenwood.

Junior Sawyer Devoe cruises in for a layup.

Junior Sawyer Devoe, the “big” on the team at 5-11, is averaging 15.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Devoe scored a season high 25 points versus Fillmore, he grabbed 18 rebounds versus Elba earlier this season and scored 20 points and grabbed 19 rebounds versus Canisteo-Greenwood Saturday. 

Sophomore Macoy Putnam is averaging 15.2 points and 7.0 assists per game. He scored a season high 30 versus Jasper-Troupsburg. He finished with double-digit assists in six games and handed out a season-high 12 against Elba including nine in the first half.After 13 games he has an amazing 92 assists.

Senior Caleb Johnson is averaging 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds. He scored a season high 25 points versus Addison.

Junior Haden Abbott is averaging 10.8 Points and 5.5 rebounds. He scored a season high 17 points versus Fillmore and grabbed 13 rebounds versus Canisteo-Greenwood.  

“We have to rebound as a team because of our lack of size,” Putnam added. 

Junior reserve Evan Campbell scored a season high 17 versus Addison and he scored 14 off the bench versus Fillmore. Junior Jamel Crowder has two double digit scoring nights off the bench as does Senior Tucker Gerych. Campbell is averaging 5.6 points, Crowder 6.4 and Gerych 4.7. 

With seven regular season games to play the A-P boys are currently the number one seed in Section Five Class D1. They defeated the No. 3 and state-ranked Fillmore, 112-74 on December 21. It could come down to Fillmore or No. 2 seed Wheatland-Chili, also state-ranked, for the Section V title.

THE FUTURE OF A-P ATHLETICS

As of right now, the sports-only merger between Avoca and Prattsburgh is still on a trial basis.

As the joint administration team prepares to ask Avoca and Prattsburgh’s Boards of Education to approve the combining of the athletic programs permanently at next month’s meeting. 

A student committee has been created. This team of both boys and girls in grades 7-12 from both schools is currently beginning the work of sharing the perspective of the student-athlete.

The next step for the committee is to begin gathering the information, data and answers that the board of education seeks to feel confident in their vote next month.

They’ll be surveying the coaching staff, survey the student athletes and examine the roster numbers across all three seasons.

Should both boards of education approve the combining of the athletic programs, the immediate work to be completed will be choosing colors, a mascot and uniforms. After that, the administration will work on creating policies, expectations and a handbook.

(Bill Collmer, founder of Section V talksback, has a state title for sports writing from the New York State Publishers Association) 

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