New Hartford basketball team set for another state final four appearance
The New Hartford boys basketball team is getting the state Final Four experience again.
It is a chance a small group gets maybe once.
Notably, the Spartans are the first Utica-area large school to reach the state final four in back-to-back years.
Senior Colton Suriano is among a handful of New Hartford players getting a rare second opportunity after being part of the Spartans’ storybook run to the state Class A final last March at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. He’s joined by standout Zach Philipkoski and role players in seniors Campbell Jenkins, Nick Broccoli, Dominic Ambrose, Gabe Spatto and sophomore Cutler Cristiano.
They hope this experience ultimately ends better than last March’s disappointing setback in the championship.
What can New Hartford take away from last year’s experience?
“We have to control our nerves,” said Suriano following the team’s lopsided regional final win last weekend at SUNY Potsdam. “It is a big atmosphere. We have to make sure everyone is relaxed. It is a big stage. We have to have fun, obviously, but play our game.”
The Spartans have marched to an “unexpected” return – those are longtime coach John Randall’s words – to Glens Falls after losing a handful of seniors from last season’s three-loss team. A tough schedule this season has provided valuable experience, though New Hartford has a so-so 16-10 overall record on paper.
New Hartford is set to play in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday against Orangeburg’s Tappan Zee (24-2) at Cool Insuring Arena.
“We talked (last week) at the shootaround about staying sharp and getting better,” Randall said. “It is about executing in the half-court the best you can because you’re going to have to do that (in Glens Falls). There’s not going to be a lot of (routs) … In the same breath, I’m hoping those five or six guys will do all they can to get those other six or seven guys in the game.”
New Hartford has become more well-rounded offensively as the season has progressed. While Philipkoski – 1,821 career points after becoming the program leader earlier in January – is arguably one of the best players in Class A, sophomore Jameson Stockwell has emerged as a threat in the postseason and Suriano has been a key member of the team. He is a four-year member of the Spartans and has been a starter for Randall for almost as long.
Suriano, who is headed to NCAA Division III St. Lawrence to continue his basketball career next fall, is averaging 10.5 points and is important on the boards. He considers Randall a mentor.
“He just holds it together for us. You just know what you’re going to get,” Randall said. “He’s still content just being that guy and not having to worry about scoring. It is pretty special. We’re fortunate to have (Suriano and Philipkoski) together for four years.”
New Hartford is ranked No. 20 while Section I’s Tappan Zee checks in at No. 4 in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association’s Class A poll.
New Hartford – which hasn’t scored fewer than 60 points during this run in wins over Oswego, East Syracuse-Minoa, Bishop Grimes, Central Square, Troy and Massena – will need its offense to continue humming along against defensive-minded Tappan Zee.
Tappan Zee has allowed 31.6 points over the last three games, highlighted by allowing just 15 points to Somers in the Section I championship.
New Hartford’s chemistry has been important to the Spartans this season. Randall points out that after a practice late last week, all 13 players were still on the court about 30 minutes after the session ended, just to continue spending time with each other.
Randall said this group “might be a little tighter” in terms of closeness than last year’s group. It is special, he said.
“Throughout the year, we had to build up the chemistry,” Suriano said. “Me and Zach knew that this year is our senior year, we have to keep the younger kids involved and make sure they’re feeling included and they feel they’re getting the credit they deserve.”
If you go ...
What: New York State Public High School Athletic Association
boys basketball championships.
Where: Cool Insuring Arena, Glens Falls.
When: Session 1 begins at 9 a.m. Friday and runs through a game at that starts at 2:45 p.m.; New Hartford’s Class A semifinal game Friday that is scheduled for a 6 p.m. begins Session II. The schedule runs through Saturday and Sunday.
If New Hartford wins Friday, it would advance to play at 8:45 p.m. Saturday in the finals.
Tickets (managed by Cool Insuring Arena officials): $10, available at the arena’s ticket window.
Tickets are also available in advance through SeatGeek (additional fees apply), according to NYSPHSAA. Advance tickets are $13 for General Admission and $25 for Premium Seating at seatgeek.com/nysphsaa-tickets.
This is a no re-entry event, according to NYSPHAA. For more information on entry procedures, bag policies and parking, visit the arena’s website at coolinsuringarena.com.
Streaming: nfhsnetwork.com (Subscription-based video).
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