Story by JOHN ANDERSON, photos by CORRINE WRIGHT
The reality sunk in before, not after the state championship game for Avoca-Prattsburgh in the boys’ basketball state finals in Glens Falls.
Talking to each player, they said the motto to keep them focused on the ultimate goal all year was 32 minutes at a time. After all, winning states last year by double digits and losing just two starters, the pressure was on to repeat.
Coming into the state finals, the team had won 24 games, all by double digits. That included three wins in sectionals, a crossover win, Far West Regionals and the state semifinals by 23 points.
In the finals against Chapel Field Christian, the players said they realized this was now their last 32 minutes. It was time to leave it all on the court. And they did. After a 7-48 win, A-P was back-to-back state champions joining just two other teams in Section V history to accomplish that feat.
“We came into it knowing this was the last 32 minutes of the season, we had to give whatever we could and we left it all on the floor and we came out on top,” said Macoy Putnam, who earned Section V MVP honors and State Finals Sportsmanship honors.
Senior Sawyer Devoe said, “This is the state championship, you aren’t letting up, you have to play 32 minutes, you’re not quitting. It was my last high school basketball game and I used that as extra fuel and I think the rest of the seniors on the team were thinking the same thing and I think the underclassmen fed into that energy as well and I think that’s what happened as well.”
While A-P (25-2) won both games in the final four by 23 and 22 points respectively, lost in the blowouts were great coaching performances by A-P Coach Brian Putnam.
In the semi-final win over a very good Hamilton team, Avoca-Prattsburgh played against the best 1-3-1 defense in the state, made the adjustments and won. In the finals on Sunday against Chapel Field, the Titans of A-P were down 7-2 right off the bat.
Jonah McDuffie, son of Chapel Field coach Josh McDuffie was on fire early, leading his team with 13 points and three rebounds. He finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds as teammate Noah Swart had 19 points and five assists.
A-P had not used a box-and-one all season, but Putman brought in first-year senior Josiah Stilson who didn’t even look at the basketball until he took a last-second shot to end the first half, as Stilson was all over McDuffie on defense.
A/P went on a 36-13 run for a 38-22 half time lead.
“We talk all the time about playing your role, knowing your role,” Macoy Putnam said, sounding every bit like a coach. “Josiah did a great job coming in and defending that kid. We didn’t need him offensively, we needed him to guard that kid and he did a great job defensively.”
Coach Putnam said, “We had Haden start out that way and the kid was incredible, so to slow him down we went to the box-and-one and it seemed to work out. Once we figured out how to defend, it worked out.”
Senior Haden Abbott finished with a game-high 32 points and earned New York State Final Four Most Valuable Player honors. He had 10 rebounds, three assists and a block. He shot 6-of-13 from 3-point range. He finished third all-time for 3-pointers in a finals and in the top 20 all-time scoring in a title game.
Senior Sawyer Devoe made the all-tournament team. A day after pulling down 18 rebounds, Devoe had 18 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
“To come back here the second year in a row is amazing, really,” said Devoe, who got to celebrate with his dad, Zac, a second year in a row at Glens Falls’ Cool Insuring Arena. Zac Devoe and Brian Putnam won titles as players for Prattsburgh.
“It’s a lot like all of the other games during the season,” Sawyer Devoe said. “It’s a lot closer in the first quarter and the first half, but once we run them down the court a lot and get them tired, we kind of pull away with our defense turning into offense.”
Macoy Putnam handed out 12 assists, scored four points, three steals and seven rebounds while Evan Campbell had 10 points, three assists, a steal and a bloc. Senior Jamel Crowder scored four with five rebounds and senior Jamison “Jamie” Reagan had two points.
“These teammates are like brothers to me, I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Macoy Putman said. “Haden started hitting shots and he didn’t miss, so we did everything we could to get the ball to the hot hand and he had the hot hand.
“We play our game, see what is working for us and find the hot hand,” the junior point guard continued. “It doesn’t matter if it’s me, Sawyer, Jamel, Haden or Evan. It doesn’t matter who it is. Whoever is hot, we get them the ball and let them give us the best chance of winning.”
After Putnam rattled off the list of the four senior starters, he said, “We are going to miss those seniors … that’s a lot of minutes to be had and some big shoes to fill.
Coach Putnam said, “It’s an incredible group of kids … you can’t replace them. You start building over again, it’s not a group of seniors you can replace.”
And it all came back to that final 32 minutes.
“It sunk in before the game, I was thinking, ‘I only have 32 minutes left to play basketball,’ that’s crazy,” said Campbell. “I was watching my interview from last year and I said ‘nothing will ever top this.’ I think we topped it this year!”
Crowder added, “We knew this morning it was our last game and we were going to play our hardest.”
For Reagan, he summed up everything Coach Putnam has said for three years about two communities coming together as one.
However, it was difficult last year for all sports. The uniforms still said Vikings and Tigers. The colors were a mix of maroon, green, gold, white and black. This year, the community and students decided on new colors and a new nickname, the Titans.
The “who goes to which school” is fading away, especially after two state championships and the cheerleaders winning a sectional title. Avoca would not have had enough kids to field a varsity basketball team this year. And that’s just four years removed from a sectional title.
Reagan said, “At first, a lot of people were unsure of this merge, and people were saying ‘we were this or that.’ But we came together as a family and we work hard together.”
Box score and photos:
Photos gallery by CORRINE WRIGHT, visit https://corinnewright.pixieset.com/