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State Final Four scouting report: Avoca-Prattsburgh back at Glens Falls (video, photos, story)

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By Bill Collmer (@BC_SVTB on Twitter), Sun Senior Sports Writer, photo gallery by Madisyn Herman (@maddd.photography on Instagram)

(In this report, Bill Collmer has photos, interviews, stats and history from each school in the State Final Four this weekend)

GLENS FALLS — When the New York State Championships for Class D begin this weekend in Glens Falls, there will be a new team making an appearance one coming back for the first time in 12 years looking for another championship and two teams back from last season.

Avoca-Prattsburgh is back for a third straight year after winning their second consecutive State Championship last season and finishing with a record of 25-2. They will match up with Section III Champion Sackets Harbor, who finished 25-0 winning the State Championship in 2012.

Avoca-Prattsburgh has not lost to a Class D school since merging sports programs in 2021.

North Warren is making their second Consecutive trip to Glens Falls. They lost in the Semifinals last season to Chapel Field who A-P defeated in the state championship game. North Warren has already played at the Cool Insuring Arena in the sectional Semifinals and Championship game. They have the shortest distance to travel of the four teams as it’s only a 29-mile trip for them. They will play Smithtown Christian who is making their first appearance in the State Final Four after winning their second Sectional Championship in school history.

GAME 1: Smithtown Christian (19-4) vs. North Warren (21-4) Saturday March 16th 9 a.m.

GAME 2: Avoca-Prattsburgh (15-9) vs. Sackets Harbor (24-1) Saturday March 16th 10:45 a.m.

(Video highlights and interviews from A-P’s win over Pine Valley in the Far West Regionals. Stories on each team continues after video, photo gallery of A-P’s win at the end of this report)

AVOCA-PRATTSBURGH TITANS

Section: Five

Record: 15-9

Coach: Brian Putnam

Numbers: Averages 65.2 PPG Allows 52.2 PPG

History: Avoca won a State Championship in 1989, Prattsburgh won in 1999; Avoca-Prattsburgh won in 2022 and 2023

Players to Watch:  Sr. Macoy Putnam 17.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 6.4 APG, 4.9 SPG, in 92 Varsity games he’s scored 1,335 points, with 642 Assists and 433 Career Steals. 
6’4” Jr. Daniel Stilson 16.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG Fr. J.J Crowder 15.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.6 APG Sr. Chris Abbott 6.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG 6’4” Sr. Collin Hammond 5.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG

OVERVIEW: In 11 seasons as Varsity Coach at Prattsburgh and now Avoca-Prattsburgh Brian Putnam is 208-59 with seven Section V Championships and two New York State Championship. He’s only had one losing season, his first. In nine of his 11 years, they’ve made it to the Sectional Finals.

After losing four starters from last years team nobody thought they would make it back to Glens Falls this season, except Brian Putnam.

“I thought we had a chance.  We have our point guard back, two strong 6’4″ kids to play in the middle, and some others that play their role very well,” Coach Brian Putnam said.

The A-P Starting Five all played at the Cool insuring arena last season. A-P is 78-11 overall since merging in 2021, they went 11-0 in 2021, 27-0 in 2022, 25-2 in 2023 and are 15-9 this season.

Two players who’ve come up big for A-P especially in the post-season have been Junior Daniel Stilson and Senior Chris Abbott. Stilson scored 37 points in the Sectional Semifinals then came up big in the Championship game. Stilson rolled his ankle in the first quarter and it didn’t like he’d be able to return.

However, after missing the entire second and third quarters he returned in the fourth quarter and scored seven of his twelve points to help A-P pull away to win by thirteen. In the Far Western Regional versus Pine Valley Abbott scored thirteen points in the third quarter and all fifteen of his points in the second half. A-P Led 30-28 at Halftime.

“Both players have really come into their role on the team. Chris is knocking down shots, and Dan is becoming very tough in the post,” Putnam said.

On Sackets Harbor: “I watched them play Harrisville, that’s a good team, I think they play well together, they share the ball well.  They are scrappy on the defensive end and crash the boards well,” Putnam said.

Strength of Schedule: A-P’s record is deceiving when you look at their schedule, all of their losses are to Class C and B schools. One loss was to Section IV Class C Champion Moravia who is playing the Class C State Final Four this weekend for the second straight season. They also lost to Section V Class C2 Champion Byron-Bergen 59-54 and went 2-1 versus Class C3 Sectional Finalist Arkport-Canaseraga. Three of their losses are to Class B Canisteo-Greenwood who finished the season 18-2. They lost to Class B2 Semifinalist Wellsville and defeated Class C1 Semifinalist Gananda.

“I think you always have to test yourself.  By playing better teams I feel we learn how to play in close games.  They learn how to play under pressure, how to handle adversity,” Putnam said.

Double-Figures: 14 of their 15 wins this season have been by double figures. A-P has won all four games the past two seasons in Glens Falls by Double Figures. They have won all three Regional Championships versus Section VI Champions by double figures. Their closest game this post season was a 13-point win over Elba in the Section Five Class D Championship game. In their 75-47 victory over Pine Valley in the Far Western Regional A-P had four players in Double Figures with J.J Crowder scoring 21, Daniel Stilson 18, Macoy Putnam and Chris Abbott scored 15 points each.

History Made with Macoy Putnam: Putnam will graduate in June as the all-time leader at Avoca-Prattsburgh in scoring, assists and steals. And will leave as one of the most decorated athletes in both schools. Putnam recently became the first player in the 103-year history of the Section V Basketball tournament to win Five consecutive Sectional Championships. As a sophomore in 2022 Putnam was Class D MVP at the State Tournament in Glens Falls. He won the Sportsmanship award in Glens Falls last season. At the End of last season, he was named New York State Class D Co-Player of the year along with teammate Sawyer Devoe by the New York State Sportswriters Association. He was named Section Five Class D Tournament MVP in both 2023 and 2024. He was named Steuben County League MVP this season.

It is fitting that a career right out of a Hollywood movie will end win or lose on the court in Glens Falls this weekend. How amazing would it be if it ended with a third straight state championship?

“What a great place to end your career.  It would be very special to win three in a row.  Win or lose what a career!” Brian Putnam said.

Shooting the Lights out: The Titans have made 111 3-pointers this season with Crowder hitting 43, Putnam 24, and Abbott 20. Even Big Man Dan Stilson has hit 4.

SACKETS HARBOR PATRIOTS

Section: Three

Record: 24-1

Coach: Jeff Robbins

History: In 2008 lost to Northstar Christian in the State Semifinals. Won the Class D State Championship in 2012 finishing the season 25-0.

Numbers: Averages 64.6 PPG, Allows 39.7 PPG

Players to Watch: 6’0” Senior Austin Griner 19.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 6’0” Jr. Marcus Castine 15.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG 5’10” Jr. Jake Peters 6.2 PPG, 4.2 APG, 6’1” Jr. Dylan Aubert 8.6 PPG Soph. Ethan Shi 5.2 PPG

Overview: The trip to Glens Falls has been two years in the making for the Patriots, they lost in the Sectional Championship game to Hamilton last season finishing the season 20-2 with star players Austin Griner and Marcus Castine making the All-Tournament team. Hamilton went on to lose to Avoca-Prattsburgh in the State Semifinals. “Yeah, last year we had a great year and it was kind of unexpected as we were pretty young.  This year we returned most of our top players so we had high expectations for this season,” Sackets Harbor Coach Jeff Robbins said.  

“I know this is huge for Austin being that it is his senior season.  He’s an absolute gym rat who has put in countless hours over the years.  He’s been part of our program since he was in 4th grade as a manager and then as a player, so obviously to be able to get to the final four his senior season is special.  Austin and Marcus are obviously our main guys offensively, but we’ve been getting contributions from other guys all year long as well,” Robbins added

Robbins on Avoca-Prattsburgh: “I have not had a chance to watch AP yet, however I watched them play the last two years down in Glens Falls.  They are obviously a well-coached team with a winning mentality.  It will be a massive challenge facing them.”

Strength of Schedule: Their loss is to Section II Class C Finalist Duanesburg who finished the season 20-3 losing in the Sectional Championship game 44-43. They defeated Section X Class D Champion Harrisville 56-53 in a Christmas tournament and defeated them again 59-57 in the Regional Qualifier this past Sunday. They also defeated Section X Class B Finalist Potsdam 54-51 in a Non-League game.

“Yesterday was a great game with Harrisville. They are a district that isn’t too far from us even though they are in a different section, and a lot of their kids have come to my summer basketball camp the last couple years.  They are a great program who won a state title in 2019 so it was great to be able to come out on top,” Robbins said.

With Harrisville leading 27-16 at Halftime, Robbins implemented a full court press in the third quarter and that proved to be the difference maker.

“We’ve played multiple defenses throughout the year.  It just so happened the press sped up the tempo yesterday which is what we needed to be able to make a comeback.  Preparing for Harrisville certainly was easier because we had already played them and knew their personnel well…however the same could be said for them towards us.  I think knowing that we beat them once at least gave our kids confidence going into the game, but at this point in the year anybody can beat anybody,” Robbins added

Double Figures: 20 of their 24 wins have come by double figures. In the Section III Championship game versus Faith Heritage, Sackets Harbor had four players score in Double Figures, Marcus Castine scored 20, Austin Griner scored 15, and Dylan Aubert & Ethan Tracy scored 11 each.

From way Downtown: Sackets Harbor has hit 148 3-Pointers this season. Griner has hit 67, Castine 29, Shi 24, Peters 12, Aubert 16

NORTH WARREN COUGARS

Section: Two

Record: 21-4

Coach:  James Cuyler

History: North Warren is making their Second straight trip to the State Tournament

Numbers: Averages 60.6 PPG, Allows 47.2 PPG

Players to Watch: 6’2” 8th Grader Semaj Cuyler 20.6 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.9 SPG 6’5” Senior Derrick Tyrell 14.9 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 5’11” Jr. Wyatt Jennings 9.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG Jr. Elijah Horge 8.9 PPG

Overview: A year after making their first trip to the State Final Four, the Cougars are back this season with unfinished business. They fell 47-46 to Chapel Field in last years Semifinals. With Semaj Cuyler and 2023 All-Tournament team selection Derrick Tyrell back North Warren is looking to capture their schools first ever State Championship.

Two weeks ago, North Warren played the Sectional Championship at the Cool Insuring Arena.

“It helps tremendously because we’re used to the court and rims. The backdrop can be tough for teams and you have to get used to it. It took us until the sectional’s final game to get used to it. We played a lot of games there over the past two years so we hope that gives us an advantage but the teams that are left are here for a reason so we expect them to figure it out. I think the butterflies were seen in the Fort Edward game in the semifinals so I think we’re good to go now,” Coach James Cuyler said.

On their opponent, Smithfield Christian: “I watched some film on them. They have great guard play and a big man inside. Very scrappy team that plays defense. Also, a real good rebounding team. We’re both two similar teams so it should be a great matchup,” Cuyler said.

Strength of Schedule: Lost to Section XII Class C powerhouse Moriah 61-60, Moriah is playing in the Class C State Semifinals this weekend. Also lost to Section XII Class D Champion Schroon Lake 55-53, they won the rematch defeating Schroon Lake in the Regional Qualifier last weekend 57-56. Also defeated Section XII Class D Finalist Crown Point 67-61 during the regular season.

“The games vs Schroon Lake and Moriah will help because both teams play physical defense. Schroon a lot of their players are soccer players and Moriah a lot of their players are football players so both teams played us physical. Moriah who was a top 3 team all year in class C was a great building block for us to see where we were at and where we can go,” Cuyler said.

Double Figures: 14 of their 21 wins have come by double figures.

Making it Rain: The Cougars have made 147 3-pointers this season with Jennings making 54, Cuyler 44, and Horge 22.

Under Pressure: After making their first trip to the State Final Four last year and losing by one-point Cuyler feels there’s pressure on them to get farther this season.

“Yes, I do I’m just being honest. We were close we make a few more plays we were in that championship game last year. It goes to show you the little things count when you get to the final four. Both teams are really good so you have to do the little things to win like boxing out, diving for loose balls, limiting your turnovers etc.,” Cuyler said.  

Semaj Cuyler is only in 8th grade but already has 50 varsity games under his belt, two Sectional Championships, two regional Championships and is making his second appearance in the State Final Four. Derrick Tyrell is a Senior averaging a double-double.

“Semaj Cuyler has stepped up every aspect of his game. As a 7th grader he averaged 12.0 PPG now he’s at 20.0 PPG and his assists, rebounds and steals went up. He’s become a vocal leader more learning from the seniors that left last year. Semaj plays like a senior he understands the moment. He’s calm and he doesn’t let anyone gets him rattled. Derrick Tyrell, we go as far as he takes us. He averages a double-double at 14.0 ppg and 14.0rpg plus 2 blocks. He’s very experienced on this stage due to playing last year. He wants to redeem himself he felt he left some plays on the court last year which Could have changed the outcome of the game. He’s also our rim protector he saved us last game vs Schroon Lake by being at the rim to help change the Schroon Lake players shot,” Cuyler added.

Role Players: “Elijah Horge a junior has been the glue guy. He does everything we need him to do at times. Guards the other team’s best player scores, rebounds and brings tremendous energy to the floor. Wyatt Jennings a underrated scorer can put up points at any given moment and a very good baseball player. He’s also an underrated rebounder he boxes out and does whatever needs to be done. Tyler Hitchcock can do whatever needs to be done. He just wants to help the team win. Coleman Swartz is a very good rebounder for his size. He can score for us at times and a real good defender. Zachary Kramar a big who’s going to use his body to play defense, rebound and score down low. Killian Weyant is a wing defender who has long arms and can score a few if needed. Hunter Conger if called can come in and stretch the floor at times,” Cuyler said.  

SMITHTOWN CHRISTIAN KNIGHTS

Section: Eleven

Record: 19-4

Coach: Daniel Skaritka

History: Smithtown Christian is making their first appearance in the Final Four

Numbers: Averages 64.3 PPG, Allows 56.9

Players to Watch: 6’4 Senior Isaiah McCarter 19.1 PPG, 5’10” Senior Nehemiah Yuen 16.6 PPG, 5’9” Junior Lorenzo Crilly 16.9 PPG, 5’9” Senior Duke Rancy 7.1 PPG.

Overview: Smithtown Christian started playing boys basketball in Section XI in 1995 however some years they didn’t have enough players to field a team. In 2020 they won their first sectional championship and qualified for the regional championship but Covid-19 shut the season down.

Coach Skaritka says: “All five players on the court are an offensive threat, our team chemistry and defensive intensity has been the key to our success. Everyone knows their roles on the team, and there are no egos. We do not care who is leading in points in the game or on the season.”

Double Figures: 16 of their 19 wins have been by double figures. In the Regional victory over South Kortright/Andes Smithtown Christian had four players in double figures. Lorenzo Crilly finished with 19 points, Isaiah McCarter had 19 points Duke Rancy added 12 points and Nehemiah Yuen scored 10 points.

On their opponent, North Warren: “I did get to watch one game of theirs so far. They like to shoot beyond the arc, are aggressive on defense, and play a good game of team basketball.”

Team Goals: “Before the season started, we talked about the goals that the team wanted to accomplish, and making it to Glenn Falls and having the opportunity to play for a state title was the goal. We are a very senior-loaded team, so this has to be the year if we want to win a state title.”

Strength of Schedule: With only four Class D schools in Section XI Smithtown Christian plays up most of the season, they lost to Class A Center Moriches 58-51. Swept Section XI Class C Champion Southold and lost to Class B Champion Pierson. They also defeated Class B Port Jefferson.

“There are a few Class D teams in our league, but playing (NYSSWA No. 10) Bridgehampton three times in the regular seasom is a tough, too. But overall, playing larger schools for most of the year has definitely helped us prepare for different situations, team defenses, and matchups. Which has helped us be prepared for playing at the state-level games,” Coach Dan Skaritka said.

Photo gallery of Avoca-Prattsburgh by Madisyn Herman:

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