Story and video by JOHN ANDERSON, photo gallery by CORRINE WRIGHT
When it comes to being honest as a coach, Brian Putnam pulls no punches.
After his Avoca/Prattsburgh boys’ basketball team defeated Panama, 67-35, he was interviewed in front of the team and parents as the team won the Far West Regionals.
Karen Iglesia from Primetime585 Sports asked Putman, “Are you tired of winning, coach?” He said “Nope, and we’re heading to Glens Falls, again!”
The defending New York State Champions were favored over Section VI Class D champion Panama, but in a week of some upsets and comebacks, nothing was certain.
Except the A/P defense.
The defense held Panam to 12 points at the half and 17 after three quarters. Meanwhile, senior Sawyer Devoe hit a baseline jumper early for his 1,000th career point and scored a game-high 21 for Avoca/Prattsburgh (23-2).
“It’s definitely difficult to emulate the pace that they play at,” Panama coach Ed Nelson said. “Our goal coming into this thing was to make them shoot over us and we did a pretty good job of that, I just don’t think that they ever missed. They play very good complementary basketball.”
It was a banner year at Panama as the boys and girls teams won Section VI titles. Panama starts just one senior and the team’s leading scorer, a sophomore, was out with an injury. Bryce Hinsdale paced Panama (16-7) with 16 points.
Putnam was pleased with the way his team came out.
“They played like they’ve been here before,” Putnam said. “We talk about the constants that have to happen with the defense and the rebounds and the offense will take care of itself. It’s easy to win when you give up 35 to 40 points a game on defense.”
Devoe had 13 in the first quarter and junior guard Macoy Putnam had all eight of his points in the first half. Senior Haden Abbott had another strong game from the outside and slashing to the basket with 18 points while Jamel Crowder hit three 3-pointers and finished with 10.
“When we score early, it gives us the ability to settle in,” Coach Putnam said. “When your first couple shots go, it allows the kids to get comfortable and get into a better flow offensively.”
Putnam has won state titles as a player and a coach, like his assistant Zac Devoe. Their sons each have titles. But that doesn’t take the shine off this diamond.
“To go one year is incredible, but to have the athletes to go two years in a row? Kudos to the kids,” Coach Putnam said. “They are goal oriented. They know what they want to do. Don’t look ahead, stay focused on what is ahead of you and they buy into it.”
A/P will next face The Hamilton Emerald Knights (22-3), the Section III champions who defeated Section X’s Heuvelton, 53-34. A/P downed Heuvelton in the state finals last year.
Hamilton coach Tom Blackford, who won his 600th career game this season, had seen enough after three quarters at the Far West Regionals at Rush-Henrietta on Saturday. He had a chance to watch A/P live, Putnam and his staff watched a livestream.
“We just watched Hamilton beat Heuvelton,” Coach Putnam said. “They have great length, they rebound the ball really well, They can shoot it, they have two or three guys who can knock it down and they will be a handful in the post and that 1-3-1 they play is tough.”
For the A/P players, getting to Glens Falls once again was a goal. It’s hard to talk about it before winning a Section V title, but with two large pieces of hardware, the state title goal is in front of them.
“It’s amazing. (Going to Glens Falls) is definitely our biggest goal, going back, just like it was our goal last year,” Senior Jamison Reagan said. “We’ve been working forward to this all year. This is just one step, and we are playing 32 minutes at a time.
Senior Josiah Stilson added, “Our coach told us not to look ahead. We were all looking forward to Glens Falls, but you have to win one game at a time. The job is not done yet.”
Senior James Forte credits the team chemistry for a reason A/P is back in the state final four at the Cool Insuring Arena on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
“Being on the team last year, the feeling was amazing,” Forte said. “The team chemistry, everyone is excited to go. No one puts any one person ahead of the other and we’re all really excited to be here.”
Panama 7 5 5 15 — 35
Avoca/Prattsburgh 22 16 19 10 — 67
Panama: Gabe Roth 2 0-0 4, Bryce Hinsdale 6 0-0 16, Brandon Keefe 1 0-2 3, Tate Calanese 1 0-0 2, Jordan Mescall 4 0-0 10. TOTALS 14 0-2 35.
A/P: Sawyer Devoe 10 0-0 21, Evan Campbell 2 0-1 4, Macoy Putman 3 1-2 8, Haden Abbott 6 3-3 18, Josiah Stilson 1 0-0 2, Jamel Crowder 3 1-2 10, Dayton Puman 1 0-0 2, Collin Hammond 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 28 5-8 67
3-pointers: Panama 7 (Hinsdale 4, Keefe, Mescall 2), A/P 8 (Devoe, Putnam, Abbott 3, Crowder 3). A/P. Total fouls: Panama 14, A/P 6 Fouled Out: none.