Regional champs: New Hartford boys basketball returning to state final four
POTSDAM — They’re back.
For the second time in as many seasons, the New Hartford boys basketball team is marching to an appearance in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Class A final four in Glens Falls.
The Spartans are back where they were last March after having little trouble in rolling past Section X’s Massena 68-35 on Saturday in a Class A regional final at SUNY Potsdam’s Maxcy Hall.
New Hartford advances to play Section I's Tappan Zee at 6 p.m. Friday in the Class A semifinals at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.
“It is surreal,” said senior Colton Suriano, who was part of the team last year when New Hartford put together a storybook run to the Class A state final. “Having these guys around me and practicing hard every day, we’ve worked for this. We’ve had a tough schedule. … The goal coming into the season was to make it to the sectional (championship) and see if we could win that. From there, play our hardest and get a couple wins. We’re right back where we wanted.”
With Saturday’s victory, New Hartford is believed to be the first large school from the Utica area to advance to a state final four in back-to-back seasons.
“This was definitely not expected to get back to Glens Falls at this point,” said longtime New Hartford coach John Randall, again noting the additions of Jameson Stockwell from Clinton and Sam Beaton and Sal Weller Jr., who were each on New Hartford’s junior varsity last season. “To be going back (to the final four) again hasn’t really set in, honestly. It is just not expected when you (have roster changes).”
Sophomore Jameson Stockwell led all scorers with 23 points Saturday as he continues his rise as a key player for the Spartans. Senior standout Zach Philipkoski had 13 and Suriano had 12. Sal Weller Jr. added 10 points.
While New Hartford didn’t have its sharpest outing Saturday – the Spartans didn’t necessarily have to be on their A game – New Hartford led 22-5 after one quarter after briefly trailing by a point very early. New Hartford held a 44-14 halftime advantage. The Spartans were up more than 30 after three quarters.
With the game in hand, all 13 players on the team got into the game.
“You want to try to stay sharp and try to get better,” Randall said. “I think we did what needed to be done in the first half. Obviously, excited to get everybody in the game. To be able to play everyone in the regional championship is one of my goals. It just makes practice that much better Monday and the atmosphere on the way home is better. I think the best part of this game is that all 13 got to be a part of it.”
Randall praised the play and leadership of Suriano and Philipkoski, who was still trying to involve other players, he noted.
Saturday’s lopsided victory seemed an inevitable outcome, though, for the reigning Section III champs and the defending state runners-up after deftly handling challenges from Bishop Grimes and Central Square in the sectional tournament followed by overcoming a late threat from Troy in the subregional final earlier in the week in Liverpool.
New Hartford also scored a lopsided win over Section X’s representative last March, though that contest was instead the subregional final. That one was played in the Syracuse area.
“You just feel comfortable coming into this game,” Randall said. “I just don’t think (Section X) teams play enough teams of the caliber of us or whoever represents the Section III area. I think it is a big step up for them just because there aren’t a lot of bigger schools up (in the Potsdam area) for them to compete against.”
While New Hartford lost a bunch of experience from last year’s two-loss team and has compiled a 16-10 record this season, the Spartans have seemingly found a rhythm in recent weeks. Saturday’s win was New Hartford’s first by 10 or more points in the last four games.
Suriano and Randall both said the team’s quality chemistry has benefitted this squad.
“When we came into the season, we struggled a little bit. You could tell our chemistry was off from last year,” said Suriano, who is set to play at nearby NCAA Division III St. Lawrence next year. “After hard work in practice and spending time with each other (off the court), we’ve created a bond and we’ve really come together.”
They hope it continues through next weekend.
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