Video and story By JOHN ANDERSON
After winning a sectional title and having to turn around and play a qualifier to get to states, there is not a lot of time to prepare for an opponent.
Avoca/Prattsburgh certainly didn’t have time to prepare for the size, physical play and athletic ability of Mt. Morris, and it showed, as the Blue Devils raced out to an 8-0 lead over the defending state champions.
However, junior guard Macoy Putnam once again dictated the pace of the game, scoring 28 with 10 assists and four steals as Avoca/Prattsburgh (22-2) advanced over Mt. Morris (17-7) with a 75-56 win.
Senior Haden Abbott had 22 points while senior Sawyer Devoe had 12 points and 11 rebounds, leaving him at 995 career points.
(Video highlights and interviews, story continues below)
A/P, the #1 ranked team in the state (ahead of South Kortright and Heuvelton, the team they played in the state finals last year) will play in the Far West Regionals against Section VI champion Panama at 5:30 p.m.
Panama, 17-6, is ranked 9th in the state.
“We are going to come in and do what we do and hope for the best,” said Putnam. “Tonight, we had to be ok with a game of runs and that’s what basketball is all about. We just have to do our job defending and go on runs of our own. My teammates helped me out tonight giving me a lot of screens. We needed points tonight so I did what I could for the team. It helps to have four kids averaging double fugures. If you key on one guy, others will go off.”
The Dansville gym was packed on Wednesday night for the state qualifier. It was not lost on the players or coaches.
“That is always an awesome environment. As nice as the War Memorial is, it’s nice to be in a gym wherre you can hear everyone and it was loud.” Putnam said.
Abbott added, “It was loud at times, at times I couldn’t hear anything, but it’s nice having those fans having your back, it’s nice.”
A/P coach Brian Putnam said, “I love this kind of atmosphere and I think the kids thrive in this kind atmosphere. It’s great to see the communities come out and support and keep coming, please!”
Abbott said about Panama, “It’s great going there again. We just have to take care of our business. It’s 32 minutes at a time as coach says. If our chemistry is there and we work together I think we’ll come out with a win.”
Mt. Morris played hard. There were battles for every 50/50 ball and the team had athletic ability to match the strength. Mason Santini (15 points) getting in foul trouble in the first half was a big momentum swing for A/P/
“It was tough at first, but we got going. They played good man-to-man defense,” Abbott said. “At times we struggled but we got through it. We started getting up and down the court more, tired them out and played well as a team.”
Coach Putnam added, “We had to play physical and create opportunities for ourselves when we got down 6- 8-0 early and struggled. We depended on our defense to let it lead to offense and it was a matter of time until we got clicking a little but.”
Payton Bownds and Navier Ford scored 17 for Mt. Morris while Mason Santini had 15.
“They were able to penetrate more than I expected, kudos to their guards for sure, they did a great job getting to the paint,” Coach Putnam said of Mt. Morris. “The physicality and dealing with the size always helps with us, we will for sure see this down the road.”
Early on, A/P got key baskets from Jamel Crowder and Evan Campbell to fuel the first quarter comeback. When there was foul trouble, Josiah Stilson and Dayton Putman played big minutes under the basket.
A/P will need another team effort on Saturday as Panama can run the floor and score.
“Off to the West Regionals. They have some scrappy guards,” Coach Putnam said. “We have watched them a little on film. They have the one guard similar to the Santini kid, they get up and down the floor, it should be a track meet for sure.”
Mt. Morris 14 12 16 14 — 56
Avoca/Prattsburgh 20 20 21 14 — 75
Mount Morris: Naver Ford 7 3-4 17, Ben Bacon 2 0-0 5, Chase Young 1 0-0 2, Payton Bownds 7 2-3 17, Mason Santini 7 1-2 15. TOTALS: 23 2 6-9 56
A/P: Sawyer Devoe 5 2-4 12, Evan Campbell 2 0-0 4, Macoy Putnam 9 8-11 28, Haden Abbott 8 5-8 22, Josiah Stilson 0 1-2 1, Chris Abbott 1 0-0 2, Jamel Crowder 2 0-0 4, Dayton Putman 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 28 16-25 75.
3-pointers: Mt. Morris: 2 ( Bacon, Bownds) A/P 3 (Putnam 2, Haden Abbott)
Total fouls: Mt. Morris 22 A/P 16. Fouled out: Ford, Bacon
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Photos courtesy Mark Gutman, Batavia Daily News: