From left, Evan Campbell, Jamel Crowder and Haden Abbott share a laugh during a post-game interview. They were joined on the Section V all tournament team by Sawyer Devoe and MVP Macoy Putnam.
Story and video by JOHN ANDERSON, photos by STEVE HARRISON
Over the years during the Class D finals at the War Memorial/Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, there have been some big-time plays and big-time players.
Forget the classification, from Belmont to Prattsburgh, there were kids who played Division I basketball. In recent years, players like Adam Enders went on to play Division III at a high level (Alfred University won the ECAC’s over the weekend).
But this year, something happened for the first time.
From the stands to the Section V officials to even game officials working other games, the buzz was the same: You have to see this Avoca/Prattsburgh team play.
And boy did they play. Using a strong second half and solid halftime adjustments, No. 1 A/P (21-2) won the Section V title with a 93-67 win. The Titans will now take on Class D2 champion, Mount Morris on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Dansville. Mt. Morris downed Jasper-Troupsburg, 70-56 in the finals.
On Saturday in the Section V Class D1 finals, Notre Dame of Batavia tried what Fillmore did last year, run with the defending state champions.
Early in the 2021-2022 season, Fillmore decided to run a fast-paced offense and beat A/P at their own game. Fillmore, playing at home, had early success. However, Avoca/Prattsburgh scored 41 points in the second quarter and won, 112-74. The first quarter of that game was back-and-forth with A/P holding on to a slight lead after one. In the second quarter? A/P outscored Fillmore 41-11.
Notre Dame (16-7), the #3 seed, dispatched Fillmore in the semi-finals, 81-58 to reach Saturday’s finals.
Maybe this is the team that could run with Avoca/Prattsburgh?
Unlike Fillmore, Notre Dame was able to sustain the pressure for a half. It was a two-point game after one quarter. Notre Dame was not going to let Haden Abbott and Macoy Putman drain 3-pointers to beat them. And Notre Dame was athletic.
On offense, Notre Dame played an aggressive style of basketball and the fouls mounted against A/P. The score was 38-34 at the half in favor of A/P.
A/P coach Brian Putnam worked on the defense to stop drives and easy baskets and let the offense do the rest. A/P came out and scored 33 points in the third quarter and six different players took turns scoring. It seemed they almost took turns.
“A lot of it was our conditioning,” said Macoy Putnam, the junior guard who calls the coach Dad as well. “We weren’t even tired coming out after the half and they were a little tired (in the second half).”
There were times A/P would grab a rebound and throw the ball down the court where someone would out-sprint a defender for an easy basket. They worked the ball around and you can’t try to stop everyone. The one player open on the perimeter was Jamel Crowder.
“It’s funny it happened like that,” said Coach Putnam. “As coaches, we were talking on the way up, ‘It’s time for Mel.’ Mel has been consistent all year, but he hadn’t had that good shooting game and he picked the perfect time for sure.”
Crowder had a huge game in the Section V finals last season and on Saturday had 18 points and two 3-pointers.
All in the second half.
“Shots were falling and my teammates kept getting me the ball,” said Crowder. “It feels great to win again. There are a lot of young talented guys on this team and hopefully they can do this again.”
Senior Sawyer Devoe laughed and said, “Jamel? That’s what I expected. Last year in the sectional finals, Jamel went off, so we expected it.”
(Story continues after video highlights and interviews with players and coaches)
Haden Abbott also had a huge second half scoring 22 of his game-high 28 points as Avoca/Prattsburgh won a third straight Section V title since combining sports programs.
“I think it was the intensity coming out at halftime. We looked a little slow on defense to start,” Abbott said. “But we started getting movement on offense and worked harder on defense and rebounding and started to pull away.”
Coach Putnam knew Notre Dame would be a concern. Like A/P, Notre Dame has several players who can score. On Saturday, Jordan Welker had 11, Ryan Fitzpatrick 15, Jay Antinore 17 and Jaden Sherwood scored 15.
“They shoot the ball really well, they defend well, they are good in transition and they penetrated our defense well in the first half and it’s something we had to address, that’s a good ball team they have there,” Coach Putnam said. “They were getting in the paint, getting what they wanted and we were able to stop that in the second half.”
Macoy Putnam was named the MVP of sectionals as he scored 16 points and calmly ran the offense, and the shot clock down, in the fourth quarter.
But Coach Putnam pointed out senior Evan Campbell was there when the pressure was on Macoy.
“Evan has been great for us all year,” Coach Putnam said. “When Coy is in foul trouble or they try to key on Coy, Evan has done a great job for us, handling the basketball, getting to the rim and staying in control.”
Campbell scored 19, Devoe 10 and Putnam 16 while Chris Abbott added two.
Coach Putnam added, “Everybody shares the basketball so well, there’s not a selfish bone about them.”
Last season, Brian Putnam and assistant coach Zac Devoe were able to pose for photos with their sons, Macoy and Sawyer, holding the state championship plaque. It was at the Glens Falls Civic Center, the same place the dad’s won in 1991, the sons won in 2022.
As A/P was leaving to go to the locker room, Putnam and Devoe realized something. With the pandemic and scheduling issues, A/P had never won a title at the War Memorial. It seemed strange, but the father-son combo took photos together with the state championship trophy before they took photos together in the historic building for winning a sectional title.
“It’s huge, it’s been a long time since we’ve been up here to play,” said Coach Putnam. “The kids have been looking forward to playing here. But they all look forward to playing 32 minutes at a time, we don’t look too far ahead, we don’t look behind. To get here, in the off-season we put in the time, a lot of open gyms, some summer leagues, it’s what they do, they love it.”
“Our defense turns into a fast-paced offense. We get stops and turn them into layups,” Campbell said. “We put in the work to get here, we worked hard over the summer and we work hard in practice.”
Most teams are happy to make the sectional finals or win a title. After winning a state title last year, A/P has bigger plans with a goal of four more wins.
“We do a lot of research on teams, we know what we have to do next,” Sawyer Devoe said. “There is a bigger picture and we are not done yet.”
Box score from the Section V championship game:
Notre Dame 21 13 16 17 — 67
Avoca/Prattsburgh 23 15 33 22 — 93
Notre Dame: Jordan Welker 3 3-3 11, Ryan Fitzpatrick 6 1-1 15, Jay Antinore 6 5-6 17, Hayden Groff 1 1 -4 3, Bryceton Berry 1 2-2 4, Jimmy Fanara 0 2-2 2, Jaden Sherwood 6 2-2 15. TOTALS 23 16-20 67.
Avoca/Prattsburgh: Sawyer Devoe 5 0-0 10, Evan Campbell 9 1-3 19, Macoy Putman 7 2-4 16, Haden Abbott 13 1-1 28, Chris Abbott 1 0-0 2, Jamel Crowder 7 2-4 18. TOTALS 42 6-12 93.
Three pointers: ND 5 (Sherwood, Welker 2, Fitzpatrick 2). A/P 3 (Haden Abbott, Crowder 2).
Total fouls: ND 17, A/P 17. Fouled out: None.
Photos by Steve Harrison: