Story and video By JOHN ANDERSON, photos by CORRINE WRIGHT
The athletic and tall Hamilton basketball team reached the state final four with an outstanding 1-3-1 defense and a solid offense led by a coach with over 600 wins.
It certainly gave Avoca/Prattsburgh fits in the first half of the New York State Class D semifinals at the Cool Insuring Arena at Glens Falls.
However, the defending state champions from Section V showed how much experience and sticking to a game plan works as Avoca/Prattsburgh came away with a 64-41 victory.
A/P (24-2) will now take on Section IX champion Chapel Hill (20-5), who downed North Warren, 47-45 in the first Class D game of the day.
Avoca/Prattsburgh coach Brian Putman made a huge adjustment early in the win over Hamilton and it had nothing to do with defense, shooting or dribbling.
He simply wanted to see the team move better without the ball.
“Once we started moving without the ball and cutting the lanes it opened things up and the shots started to fall,” senior Haden Abbott said. “Playing here before and having confidence helped. Being back here again, the nerves were gone and we could focus on making shots.”
And did Abbott ever make shots. he scored 17 of A/P’s 28 points in the first half and finished with 21 points and six rebounds.
Senior Jamel Crowder also sparked the offense, scoring 16 points with two assists.
“For me and Haden, all it takes is for one to go in, then the next one and the next one and the next one, they go in,” Crowder said. “Playing here is a lot like the Blue Cross Arena (in Rochester) and we have a lot of experience there and we played here last year so it’s a lot of fun.”
When Evan Campbell came out with an ankle injury, the Titans did not let that slow them down at all. Freshman Dayton Putman blocked a shot which led to a fury of points.
When Campbell checked back in with 3:16 left in the third, a Crowder 3-pointer gave A/P a 20 point lead at 46-26.
After a timeout, Hamilton came out and scored five straight points before Putnam drove the lane and was fouled. His free throws extended the lead back to 17.
“Their 1-3-1 was very difficult, we don’t have the personnel to replicate that in practice. It made things difficult for us in the first half for sure,” Coach Putman said. “We started to move without the basketball. We were a little stagnant on penetration, we weren’t moving and just looking to shoot three’s. Once we started moving, it forced them to defend the interior and that opened up Jamel and Haden on the outside. When we started moving a lot of good things happened.”
The other two constants in the game were senior Sawyer Devoe and junior Macoy Putnam. Devoe, who was just featured in a Sun story for his 1,000 career points and rebound ability, pulled down 18 rebounds, a whopping 12 on the offensive boards and scored 13 points.
Macoy, who was the MVP of the state finals last year, had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists. he also had seven rebounds and four steals. But his value was running the offense and controlling the flow of the game, whether it was fast-paced or slowed down to seal the win in the last few minutes.
“Sawyer had 18 total rebounds on the game. The kid is just unbelievable,” said Coach Putnam. “We were begging some people to help him out and then Haden and a few others started grabbing them, but he did what’s he’s done all year long.”
Devoe said, “It was difficult on the inside with their 1-3-1 but then we found shooters the corners, Jamel and Haden started to knock them down and that was the difference. When they are hitting shots, it makes our job so much easier. macoy just has to handle the ball and keep the pace going. And then I just have to stay down there and rebound. And that’s what I try to do day-in and day-out. To get 18 rebounds here (in the state semi-finals) that’s what it’s all about.”
Coach Putnam was also pleased with the guards.
“Evan took care of it, Coy did a great job running it and taking care of the basketball,” Coach Putnam said. “Everyone did what they were supposed to do. We talk about doing your job and everyone did what they are supposed to do.”
Now it’s back in the state finals.
To be back in the state finals, Crowder said, “it feels good, we are all excited. Now it’s time to prep and win tomorrow.”
Devoe said, “We are excited to be here, we are excited to be playing tomorrow, but the job is not finished.”
Abbott warned it’s 32 minutes of basketball. Just like the first game of the season, just like the last game they played.
“It’s starting to sink in a little but, but we have 32 minutes left to get it,” Abbott said. “That would mean everything to all of us, to be two-time state champions. One alone is something special, but it’s an amazing feeling.”
(Coming Sunday morning, a preview with quotes and video highlights of A/P’s opponent, Chapel Hill Christian)
Photos after the box score:
PHOTOS BY CORRINE WRIGHT: