New Hartford's postseason run ends in state Class A semifinals
GLENS FALLS — The New Hartford boys basketball team seemed to be playing with house money during this season's unexpected, yet impressive, postseason run.
Early into the Spartans’ final four game Friday against defense-minded Tappan Zee, it seemed like New Hartford would continue to draw good luck.
And, then, the Spartans’ fortunes were stifled seemlingly just as quickly.
Tappan Zee’s smothering defense limited New Hartford's offense in a 58-48 setback in the New York State Public Athletic Association Class A semifinals at Cool Insuring Arena.
“I told them all: You can be sad, just don’t be disappointed,” said longtime New Hartford coach John Randall, who showed some emotion in a post-game interview. “It is two different things. If you’re disappointed then you’re thinking that you didn’t do something you were supposed to do and that’s about as far from the truth as possible. They did everything they could do just to get back here and just to win the sectionals. I’m fortunate to be their coach.”
The Spartans have a 40-14 mark over the last two seasons following Friday's setback. That includes a pair of Section III titles, two regional championships and being the first large school from the Utica area to make back-to-back trips to the state final four.
“I wish we had better endings,” said standout Zach Philipkoski, who finished with a team-best 29 points Friday and ends his New Hartford career with 1,850 after becoming the program's all-time leader in January. “But being here for four years, playing for coach, playing with my best friends, I’d say it’s great.”
After the final horn Friday, Randall appeared to try to soak in the final moments with two of his seniors who turned in standout high school careers. He hugged both Philipkoski — the star guard/forward who has yet to reveal his post-high school plans — and Colton Suriano, who is committed to play for NCAA Division III St. Lawrence. Randall said he loved both players.
“It’s four years of everything they possibly could give me,” Randall said. “They gave me and they gave those kids the same thing. In those four years, you also got two sectional titles and two regional titles and it’s not something that’s been done in New Hartford. So, it’s going to sting right now, but they’re going to appreciate everything that they’ve done to get the program to where it is right now.”
The Dutchmen (15-2 overall), which were ranked No. 4 in the most recent New York State Sportswriters Association Class A poll, were allowing 31.6 points over the last three games entering Friday. For example, in the Section I championship, Tappan Zee held their opponent to 15 total points. The team doesn't have a player over 5-foot-11 on the roster. It didn't matter.
Friday's 48 points represent the fewest scored this season for New Hartford (16-11 overall), which had rolled to the sectional title after a so-so regular-season. New Hartford knocked off Bishop Grimes and Central Square en route to the section title and then notched victories over Troy and Massena to march unexpectedly back to the state final four for the second time in as many seasons.
New Hartford scored a bit of a win early Friday, jumping out to an 11-4 lead and held an 18-8 advantage after one quarter.
“We probably scored more in the first quarter than we should have,” said Randall, whose team was ranked No. 20 in the NYSSWA poll. “I don’t think they’ve given up 18 too many times."
And that's when the stifling defense kicked in as Philipkoski, Suriano and sophomore Jameson Stockwell — who had emerged as a postseason threat for the Spartans — struggled to extend New Hartford's momentum.
New Hartford was limited to just two points in the second, with the lone bucket on a layup from Suriano occurring with about 40 seconds remaining before the half. Tappan Zee, led by Sean Berrigan, wrestled away control with a 16-2 run and grabbed a 24-20 halftime lead.
“Would I have liked to have scored more than two in the second quarter? Of course,” Randall said. “But some guys got some opportunities that just didn’t go in and some guys had some tough nights that haven’t had tough nights as of late.”
The Dutchmen D continued to cause trouble in the second half, especially forcing turnovers. Though New Hartford got within three points near the midpoint of the third quarter on a Philipkoski 3-pointer. Tappan Zee closed with an 8-3 run, though, and led 41-33 going into the fourth quarter.
“They were a lot more impressive live than they were on film,” Randall said. “It was expected, but not for 32 minutes. They locked us up.”
Tappan Zee was led offensively by Tommy Linehan with 20 points and Jack Maloney added 16 while Berrigan had 15 to help the team advance to the state final against Irondequoit.
Philipkoski — who along with Suriano got into some foul trouble on some tough calls — tried to carry the Spartans as he's done, finishing with 24 points in the second half. Suriano and Beaton each finished with six points for the Spartans.
“They just locked up everybody,” Randall said. "Stockwell couldn’t get by his guy. Colton couldn’t get by his guy. Zach got by his guy, sometimes. You’re putting a lot on (Sal) Weller and (Will) Beaton to think that they’re all of a sudden going to start knocking down shots in a state final four game. And even the guys that were guarding them — they just had five guys to guard our five guys and they made it difficult.”
Despite the tough end, Philipkoski believes New Hartford's future remains bright.
“They should be able to hopefully do what we just did and come back here,” Philipkoski said. “I have faith in them. I hope they have faith in themselves so they could keep winning.”
Tappan Zee wins the title
Tappan Zee went on to win the championship with a 49-36 victory over Irondequoit Saturday night at Cool Insuring Arena.
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