State final four MVP Macoy Putnam skies for two of his 11 points for A-P.
Story and videos by JOHN ANDERSON, photos by CORINNE WRIGHT
GLENS FALLS — During the run through sectionals and states, six different players stepped up to give Avoca-Prattsburgh a lift when teams focused on stopping one to three players on the court.
On Saturday afternoon on high school basketball’s biggest stage in New York State, the Glens Falls Civic Center, the seventh and eighth different players decided it was their turn to give A-P a spark.
Senior Caleb Johnson and junior Evan Campbell scored 10 points in the first half, catching Section X champion Heuvelton off-guard for a 37-21 halftime lead.
Two quarters later, it was a “Family Tradition.” Brian Putnam and Zac Devoe, members of the 1991 state championship are now the head coach and assistant coach. They stood at the end of the bench, fighting back emotions watching their sons, Macoy Putnam and Sawyer Devoe celebrate with their teammates on the same Glens Falls Civic Center floor.
Avoca-Prattsburgh held off a late Heuvelton rally to capture the New York State Class D championship, 70-58 in the Cool Inspiring Arena.
Macoy Putnam was named tournament MVP, as he scored 39 points over two games. The sophomore praised the play of Caleb Johnson and Evan Campbell, who gave the team a lift early.
“They definitely gave us a spark,” said Putnam. “Evan came off the bench and hit a big shot which gave us a spark and Caleb not only scored, but he had some big rebounds and that helped us a lot.”
As Heuvelton looked to cut the lead under 10, the play of the game took place. Heuvelton took a long 3-pointer with Putnam defending. The shot missed, and there was Putnam under the basket to rebound, fire the ball to mid court to Devoe who fired a perfect pass to a streaking Tucker Gerych for the layup and a 55-42 lead with just under six minutes left in the game.
A-P (27-0) went 18-for-20 from the free throw line and perfect down the stretch to seal the win.
“This is huge, it doesn’t feel real,” said Johnson, a senior. “You really just have to know from the start, you have to get going, everyone has to get going. It’s the state championship. Nothing is going to be given to you. Regardless of our record and how hard we prepared, it doesn’t matter. We have to go all gas, no brakes the whole time.”
Macoy Putnam said even though the pace of the game favored A-P, it was intense at first as the teams seemed on a pace to each score 100.
“In the beginning it was chaotic when they were trying to run with us,” the sophomore said. “But I would say we eventually tired them out a little bit which gave us a little more of an advantage because we could keep going and we pulled ahead by doing that and played how we play.”
Johnson added, “We knew from the start, all these news articles said ‘this is the team that is going to run with Avoca-Prattsburgh’ and all of this. We weren’t going to let it happen. No one prepares like we do and I know it for a fact.”
Pacey Hopkins scored 24 points in his final high school game (he will play in the Ronald McDonald Section V All-Star Game) and was 11-for-12 from the free throw line with three steals, two assists and two blocked shots. He ends his career with 61 straight wins and a 61-1 record. Two seasons ended with Section V title but ended because of the Covid pandemic.
“It was three years of being held back,” Hopkins said, shaking the heavy New York State Champion plaque. “This in my hands right now means a whole lot. I put in a lot of hours into basketball and this makes it all worth it and it’s amazing to be here.”
Hopkins, who made the state all-tournament team and was Section V MVP, said the best part of the game was “coming out strong and getting up 10 to 11 points and holding that lead.” He said the strong start in the second half was the same thing. He also marveled at Macoy Putnam who controlled the pace of the entire game.
“Macoy did a lot for us, he carried us to a win (in the semifinals),” said Hopkins. “As a sophomore he was playing high-level like a senior and we appreciate him for what he did.”
Macoy Putnam added, “This was our goal all along. This is exactly what we had in mind from the beginning of the season and now we have our hands on it, it feels amazing. I definitely am going to have some bragging rights in the house now for sure!”
Haden Abbott scored 13 points with three steals and four assists for A-P while pulling down six rebounds. Campbell and Johnson each scored five points while Tucker Gerych had four points, two rebounds and an assist.
Sawyer Devoe had the task of guarding the strong and athletic Tristan Lovely who had 13 points for Heuvelton (23-5) while Nathan Mashaw had 16 and Jededia Crayford had 11.
Devoe scored 10 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, had seven assists and three steals. He was perfect on his free throws and controlled the first half on the boards with nine rebounds.
“I can’t put it into words right now, I am speechless,” said Devoe, a junior, who won the New York State Sportsmanship Award. “I’ll remember this game, the whole weekend. The semi-finals was a battle and the hardships we had to overcome this year but now the bond we all have.
“The balanced scoring shows how deep our team is. If someone is getting double teams, you can kick it out and know they can knock down the shot as well, it’s nice,” he added.
Coach Brian Putnam said he enjoyed this one on a different level compared to being on the floor as a player.
“It’s pretty incredible, there are no words to explain how special it is to watch the kids succeed, there are no words that can describe it,” he said. “During the game: We were hoping they would run with us because (Oppenheim-Ephrath-St. Johnsonville) got us out of our flow during the (semifinal victory) and today we ran a lot better and I think we got them a little tired and we liked the up and down tempo. But they made a nice in the fourth, we just kept it together.”
Putnam’s coaching moves also kept it together. With the fast-paced games and Heuvelton trying to stop certain players, he went to Jamel Crowder then Campbell. Gerych’s fresh legs were grabbing rebounds and altering shots.
“You never know who is going to step up,” Putnam said. “Tucker gave us some good minutes again as did Evan. Teams don’t like to be sped up and play at a pace they are not comfortable with. And that’s what we do on defense, we speed it up and it leads to turnovers.
“You cant ask for a better group of kids. they love to share the basketball, they love to win,” Putnam continued. “And to win, that chemistry has to be there, you have to be good players who love each other and want to win.”
Campbell said, “This is amazing, I’ve never felt anything like this before, Best day of my life.”
The junior guard felt the shoot-around before the state finals helped the team and his confidence.
“I did what I had to do, came in and did what I could do for the team and it went on from there … this is awesome,” he added.
The A-P team dove for balls and took charges. They hit 3-pointers and ran to their positions on the floor for defense. They didn’t point to the crowd or celebrate until the final buzzer. Coach Putnam said that’s something that he learned from his coach, Jim Burke, and wanted to keep going.
“The hard-nosed stuff and the respect. You play hard and be humble. We don’t let our kids shoot a fake bow and arrow when they shoot 3’s,” Putnam said. “To us, that’s not basketball.”
Mike Tones and Steve Hopkins round out the coaching staff.
Coach Burke also told me a long time ago, surround yourself with good people and you will be successful and I think that speaks to it,” Coach Putnam said. “We have eight eyes on everything and four good basketball heads, it’s god to have people behind you who know basketball.”
Coach Putnam was asked to talk about his son and the MVP performance.
“His patience for a sophomore is unbelievable,” he said. “He is very composed, he didn’t allow a team to speed him up or slow him down. As a sophomore, his composure is incredible and he sees the floor well plus he did it on a big stage. How can you not be emotional?”
Zac Devoe added, “It’s huge. The circle is so big in this community with my old coach still around and Brian and I were on the same team 30 years ago and seeing our two boys in practice each day, socially at each other’s house, it’s a beautiful thing and something dreams are made of.”
Heuvelton 12 9 19 18 — 58
Avoca-Prattsburgh 21 16 14 19 — 70
HEUVELTON: Jake Venette 2 0-0 5; Cole Rickett 3 2-2 8; Nathan Mashaw 5 4-4 16; Jededia Crayford 3 0-0 9; Lucas Thornhill 1 1-2 3; Tristan Lovely 6 1-3 13; Connor Phillips 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 22 8-11 58.
AVOCA-PRATTSBURGH: Sawyer Devoe 4 2-2 10; Macoy Putnam 3 3-4 11; Tucker Gerych 2 0-0 4; Caleb Johnson 1 0-0 5; Haden Abbott 5 2-2 13; Pacey Hopkins 6 11-12 24. TOTALS: 23 18-20 70.
3-pointers: Heuvelton 6 (Crayford, 3, Mashaw 2, Vennette). A-P 6 (Putnam 2, Campbell, Abbott, Hopkins)
Total fouls: H – 16, A-P – 11. Fouled out: Lovely (H).
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