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Defense and clutch shots lift Avoca-Prattsburgh to state finals in basketball (video and story)

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Sawyer Devoe manages to get off a shot in the state final four. Corinne Wright photo.

Story and video By JOHN ANDERSON, photos by CORINNE WRIGHT

GLENS FALLS — Avoca-Prattsburgh’s boys basketball team has scored 90 or 100 points nine times during the 2021-2022 season.

With a minute left in the New York State Class D Final Four in Glens Falls, the team had 59. They also did not score their first point until there was 3:29 left in the first quarter.

Sounds like a crushing loss for the undefeated, No. 1 team in the state.

Except A-P has a coach and coaching staff that has been here before. Head coach Brian Putnam never cracked under pressure, made the right moves with his team down five points in the third quarter as A-P cruised in the end to a 59-42 victory over the Oppenheim-Ephratah St. Johnsville (OEST) Wolves.

Avoca-Prattsburgh (26-0) will face Heuvelton (23-4) on Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center Cool Insuring Arena in the state finals at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

Sophomore Macoy Putnam who came off a two-point game and usually runs the offense, scored a game-high 28 points with five steals and three assists for Avoca-Prattsburgh. When A-P needed to seal the win, Macoy Putnam calmly went to the line and drained 8-of-12.

Macoy Putnam flies through the air for two of his game-high 28 points. Corinne Wright photo.

“It was an nice to see, he got into attack mode in the second half,” Coach Putnam said of his son. “He was driving and penetrating as well as creating.”

Did he ever.

The slick lefty scored 12 points in the third quarter, as OESJ scored 11 as a team. His steals, layups and defense brought A-P back from the deficit and a 3-point play gave the green and white the lead. In the fourth quarter, Putnam scored seven more, five in the last three minutes from the free throw line.

On the other end of the scoring column was senior Tucker Gerych who had two points. Against Westfield in the Far West Regionals victory, Gerych played a minute in the third and a few minutes at the end of the game when it was decided.

Friday morning, Coach Putnam gave him the toughest assignment of his life: Try to slow down OESJ’s 6-foot-6 senior center, Owen Feagles, who scored 17 points, but only two in the fourth quarter with Gerych playing tough defense and even scoring an important basket.

“I’ve been pretty solid  off the bench all year, I didn’t play come sectional time but I knew tonight, once he picked me, I knew had to step up and play my game and that’s exactly what I did,” Gerych said. “I did it for myself with confidence, I did it for my team because they needed me. In that moment, I did what was needed, on defense and when I scored.”

Video highlights and interviews of Avoca-Prattsburgh’s win. Video by John Anderson.

Putnam has a bench filled with outstanding athletes. In this game, he felt it was Gerych.

“We had to find the right combination, shots weren’t dropping and we were using a lot of energy on defense with their size,” Putnam said. “Tucker Geyrch came in during the third quarter and gave us a huge lift and guarded their big guy and it allowed Sawyer to free up a little bit and we finally got in a rhythm.”

Another adjustment Coach Putnam made to control the flow of the game and win was his defense. A-P was picking up the guards with a half-court trap. They went to full-court pressure and OESJ was never able to get a good offensive set again. Also, A-P had 13 steals as a team and created 24 turnovers.

“We had to speed them up a little bit, they were walking up the floor and lulling us to sleep a little but so we decided to speed them up a little bit and get them to turn it over and we did,” Coach Putnam said.

“On offense, Haden gave us a good momentum going in the halftime and in the third quarter, he gave us a great pace and energy.”

Pacey Hopkins drives to the basket in the state final four. Corinne Wright photo.

The other difference maker was Haden Abbott, who not only hit a buzzer beater at halftime to tie the game at 23-23, but another to give A-P a 41-34 lead at the buzzer of the third quarter. The A-P offense scored four points in the last 13.4 seconds of the first half, another huge momentum builder.

On the buzzer beaters, Abbott said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to get points on the board, that’s what we go after. I knew we weren’t getting our shots to fall, and when you get momentum, you have to take advantage of it.”

Sawyer Devoe had 13 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two assists and a block for A-P while Gerych and Caleb Johnson had a steal and a block, Haden Abbott had 10 points and senior Pacey Hopkins had six points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Hopkins, who has now won 60 games in a row as a player, has also had chances to go to states ended because of the Covid pandemic three times. After the Westfield win, players told the Hornell Sun they wanted to win for him.

“It means a lot. They know I got taken out at a chance to go to states and I am so happy they want to make this run for me and the seniors,” Hopkins said. “Today, shots were not going in, the game didn’t go according to plan, but we’re not going away from our plan. We are going to keep shooting and we won despite out shooting percentage.”
He was also happy for fellow senior Gerych. 

“Tucker has not played a lot, but him coming off the bench with that energy really got us going,” Hopkins said. “It feels amazing to be here, we worked hard all season to get where we are right now. It’s good to know hard worked paid off. 

The New York State Final Four Sportsmanship Award for A-P was awarded to Jamel Crowder.

Coming Saturday morning: The coaches from Avoca-Prattsburgh and Heuvelton talk about the State Championship matchup and quotes from some A-P players on being in the state finals.

Avoca-Prattsburgh 8 15 18 18 — 59
Oppenheim-Ephratah St. Johnsville 7 16 11 8 — 42
Avoca-Prattsburgh: Sawyer Devoe 6 1-2 13; Evan Campbell 0 0-0 0; Macoy Putnam 7 8-12 28; Tucker Gerych 1 0-0 2; Caleb Johnson 0 0-0 0; Haden Abbott 3 4-5 10; Pacey Hopkins 2 2-3 6; Jamel Crowder 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 21 15-22 59.
OESJ: Paeytyn Logan-Dillenbeck 0 1-3 1; Mason Snell  2 0-0 6; Colton Christensen 7 1-5 15; Hunter Smith 1 0-0 3; Owen Feagles 8 1-2 17. TOTALS: 18 3-10 42.
3-pointers: A-P 2 (Putnam 2) OESJ 3 (Snell 2, Smith).
Total fouls: A-P: 9, OESJ 17. Fouled out: Snell (OESJ).
Shooting percentages: OESJ: first half, 41.6%, game, 37.5%, three-pointers, 21.4%. A-P: First half, 37%, game, 47.5%, 3-pointers: 13.3% 

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