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Another unselfish effort leads Avoca-Prattsburgh to NYS Final 4 after Far West Regional win (video and story)

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Sawyer Devoe slices through four defenders for two of his game-high 30 points. Photo by Corinne Wright.

Story and video by JOHN ANDERSON, photos by CORINNE WRIGHT

BUFFALO — Avoca-Prattsburgh junior Sawyer Devoe just had the game of his life.

Playing for the undefeated No. 1 ranked team in New York State with expectations of a state championship, you can’t get to Glens Falls without winning the Far West Regional.

Devoe dropped 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead A-P (25-0) past Westfield, 78-56. When Westfield made a run to close the third quarter, Devoe scored 14 in the fourth to seal it, and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

However, instead of talking about his moment in the sun, he explained this win was for his teammates.

For the seniors.

It’s just another reason this A-P team is so hard to beat.

“We did this for players like Pacey Hopkins (58 straight wins, two seasons ended early because of Covid),” Devoe said. “He’s gotten gypped out of a couple opportunities like this and it’s more motivation thinking about him … I mean he NEEDS this, he deserves this, our seniors deserve this.”

But there is something else that motivates Devoe. His family and his teammates families. Playing for Avoca-Prattsburgh is like the “Seven Degree Separation of Kevin Bacon,” everyone has a connection to a state championship basketball team.

“This is a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to (got to Glens Falls to the Final Four), my dad (Zac Devoe, currently an assistant coach) did, other kids on the team, their parents did, too. I’ve always heard about it and it’s a dream come true,” said Devoe.

The similarities are scary.

Saturday at Buffalo State, A-P wins, 78-56. In 1991, when head coach Brian Putnam and Zac Devoe were players, they defeated Westfield on March 9, 1991, 82-56 and went on to win the state championship for Prattsburgh.

Pacey Hopkins was fouled on this play in the second half. He scored 25. Corinne Wright photo.

Devoe, the players and coaches talked about defense and the great adjustments by the A-P coaching staff at halftime.

“They played that 2-3 (zone) so we got it in the middle of the court where there wasn’t as many defender and got it down in the paint or kick it out for the 3’s and it got everything going everywhere,” Devoe said. 

Another junior, Haden Abbott, who had 14 points (four 3-pointers), six rebounds and three steals said, “We put in the work day-in and day-out, we are just so glad to be part of this team, we are there for each other and we go in and work hard. We struggled a little on defense, and we know we are going to get the offense. So at halftime, we talked more about boxing out because we give up size and we stayed with our game plan and just played the game we love.”

Coach Putnam added, “In the second half, we had to stop allowing penetration, stop letting Darien Swanson (team-high 18 points) drive so much and we had to pick better spots to trap.”

Game highlights and interviews with Haden Abbott, Sawyer Devoe and Coach Brian Putnam. Video by John Anderson.

Westfield finishes 22-2 and winners of 21 straight since a loss to Section VI Class B1 champion Olean on Dec. 4, 2021. Westfield opened the season with a win over Class B Hornell.

Westfield coach Nolan Swanson said, “We had a good schedule and our league plays good defense generally, but the offense that Avoca-Prattsburgh has doesn’t exist in our league. They really rebound the ball, they are quick rebounders. When I saw them play against Batavia, I could tell their strength and speed, they are in good shape. They don’t fall apart and get tired from that pace, they are a tough team.”

Hopkins has now won 59 straight games dating back to his sophomore year and finished with 25 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals.

Sophomore Macoy Putnam had another incredible day directing the offense with an eye-popping 14 assists, five rebounds and four steals. He only needed to shoot once, a 3-pointer in the third, as the offense was flowing through him. Caleb Johnson (five points) and Evan Campbell combined for five steals and two assists.

Coach Brian Putnam doing an interview with Primetime585’s Karen Iglesia and coach Gerard Iglesia. Corinne Wright photo.

“We have so much chemistry,” Abbott said. “We are all best friends, we know everyone is going to put the work in and do the job coming off the bench.”

Coach Putnam has put together a tradition of bringing the team up to a major venue for major games the night before. They visit with former teammates and build memories.
On Friday night, Coach Putnam and Coach Devoe talked about their playing days under Hall of Fame coach Jim Burke and making those same memories.

“Going to Glens Falls never gets old!” Coach Putnam said. “Zac and I were talking about the team we played on, we were reminiscing and we we talk about it a lot.”The extra stuff we do with the kids is as important, if not a little more important, than stepping on the court and playing,” Coach Putnam continued. “That is what brings the kids together. The stories we talk about the stories the kids talk about, it didn’t happen on the Civic Center floor, it was the hotel, the drive up to Glens Falls, we even know the name of the bus driver who took us.”

And by this weekend, a new generation of memories will begin.

Avoca-Prattsburgh 17 18 18 25 — 78
Westfield 12 15 9 20 — 56

AVOCA-PRATTSBURGH: Sawyer Devoe 11 8-8 30; Evan Campbell 0 1-2 1; Macoy Putnam 1 0-0 3; Tucker Gerych 0 0-0 0; Caleb Johnson 2 0-1 5; Haden Abbott 4 0-0 14; Pacey Hopkins 10 3-4 25; Jamel Crowder 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 29 12-15 78.

WESTFIELD: Ethan Weingary 4 1-7 13; Logan Tuah 1 0-0 2; Cole Holland 2 3-7 7; Darien Swanson 6 4-7 18; Carson Swanson 3 0-0 9; Harrison Rohinda 1 0-1 2; Wyatt Schuski 1 1-1 3; Chris Rhoinda 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 19 9-23 56.

3-pointers: A-P 8 (Abbott 4, Johnson, Hopkins 2, Putnam). Westfield 7 (Weingart 2, D. Swanson 2, C. Swanson 3).
Total Fouls: A-P: 20, Westfield: 14. Fouled out: None.

The undefeated Far West Regional Champions, Avoca-Prattsburgh. Corinne Wright photo. (@corinnewrightphoto)

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