New Hartford boys basketball ‘hungry’ for more success
New Hartford is back in the state boys basketball playoffs.
Coach John Randall and the Spartans are pushing to add more memories after last season’s storybook run to the Class A state final for the first time and the program’s first Section III title in 15 years.
The Spartans reached a notable milestone Sunday in earning back-to-back section titles in a big-time comeback. New Hartford showed grit and determination in overcoming an 11-point deficit after three quarters against Central Square to secure the title at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.
While senior Zach Philipkoski continues to be the do-it-all standout for the Spartans, the squad got key contributions from classmate Colton Suriano and sophomores Jameson Stockwell and Sal Weller Jr. as well.
“It just shows how good the program is and how good coach is and how we play well together,” said Philipkoski, who is averaging 26 points this season.
This year’s team is different than last year’s squad that only had three losses. While the team has 10 losses this season, they’re arguably one of the best teams in Class A.
Randall noted he thought the Spartans are relying “a lot more” on Philipkoski and Suriano at this point compared to last season. And, it is nice to have Stockwell “stepping up,” he acknowledged.
“I just think we had more guys that could score last year,” Randall said. “This year we have more guys that can defend. I think that’s the biggest difference: Defensively we’re better. But offensively and experience-wise we’re not going to duplicate what we were last year. We have to win in different ways.”
Players say a tougher schedule could help them continue a run deeper into March again.
“We played better teams this year (compared to last year), so we didn’t have as good of a record (this season),” Philipkoski said. “Those games prepared us for this.”
New Hartford gets a chance take a step closer Wednesday when they head back to the Syracuse area to take on the Section II champ Troy Flying Horses. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Liverpool High School. The winner will advance to face Section X’s Massena at 1 p.m. Saturday at SUNY Potsdam.
Should they win again: a trip to Glens Falls would follow Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18.
For now, the focus is on Troy. While the Flying Horses are 13-10 overall, don’t be fooled: The team is ranked No. 21 in Tuesday’s New York State Sportswriters Association boys basketball poll while New Hartford is tied for 30th.
Notably, the Flying Horses scored a humongous upset win in double overtime last weekend over top-seeded Amsterdam in the Section II Class A final.
“I thought Amsterdam could win a state championship, and they knocked them off,” Randall said. “(Troy is) guard-orientated and four guys that can handle it and shoot it.”
There’s one opponent in common for New Hartford and Troy this season: Bishop Grimes. Troy was edged by a visiting Bishop Grimes 70-67 on Dec. 28. Meanwhile, New Hartford scored a 81-71 victory in the Section III semifinals.
Troy played three other Section III opponents in topping Bishop Ludden and Utica Academy of Science but also lost to Liverpool.
Randall hopes the Spartans’ work ethic will continue to be a strength as it was during the team’s wild comeback to get here.
“We’re not as seasoned as we were last year,” Randall said. “But, we’re definitely as hungry as we were at this point.”
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