UTICA – Proctor junior Jalen Hawkins made sure his senior teammates enjoyed their final regular season home game.
On Senior Night, Hawkins poured in 30 of his 43 points in the second half as the Raiders pulled away from rival New Hartford in an action-packed Tri Valley League game played Friday night at Michael J. Arcuri Athletic Complex.
Senior McKinley West also made a huge impact, scoring 17 points, and Proctor’s defensive pressure turned a back-and-forth battle into a comfortable victory to put the Raiders (6-1, 11-4) in control of the Tri Valley League.
“Early on, Jalen was not very confident from outside and he forced some shots,” Proctor head coach Mark F. Joseph said. “I told him at the half that it would come, and it did. Once he started hitting from outside everything picked up. I also have to give our defense credit. Our players did it all on their own and really picked up the tempo to help us get steals and pull away.”
The Raiders struggled from the field in the opening half as the Spartans’ 2-3 zone made sure to mark Hawkins, and finishing over the long back line of Frankie Policelli, Nick Courto and Noah German proved to be a difficult task. The Spartans led throughout most of the opening quarter, but Hawkins’ conventional three-point play gave the Raiders an 18-17 lead after the opening eight minutes.
In the second quarter, the Spartans took advantage of Proctor’s cold shooting and could have led by even more if not for the relentless work on the offensive glass by the Raiders that kept them close at 31-28 at the break.
“Early we weren’t hitting our shots from outside,” Joseph said. “I thought we played a pretty poor first half but were only down three points, so I felt good about our chances of putting together a good half of basketball and winning the game.”
Sophomores Policelli (25 points) and Courto (18) kept the Spartans in the game until the Raiders went on a quick 14-3 run late in the third quarter that featured several steals and a breakaway dunk by Hawkins that gave Proctor a 52-41 lead and sent the Proctor crowd into a frenzy.
“It was a tough minute and a half,” Randall said. “I thought we competed and played well for 30 minutes. But we turned it over four times in five trips and they converted every one.”
Hawkins scored 18 points in the decisive third quarter, showing great offensive variety by hitting two threes, drilling pull-up jumpers and making several tough shots in traffic.
The Spartans remained within reach by converting 11 foul shots in the final quarter. However, New Hartford (5-4, 9-7) could pull no closer than eight points as Hawkins, who scored his final two points on a two-hand slam, and McKinley, who added six points in the final quarter, were able to answer every charge by the Spartans.
“He’s a special talent,” Randall said of Hawkins. “When they needed to score they went to him and he scored.”
Hawkins finished one point shy of his career high of 44 points, but getting the win was all that mattered.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” Hawkins said. “We started off slow today, but played well as a team in the second half. … When the game is close I get that killer instinct, and when my outside shots start falling, it gets me going.”
For McKinley it was a big night for the entire team and especially the six seniors, which include Anthony Graham, Ramel Poole, Jiquil Dunkley, Tajh Lacy and Giovanni Dixon.
“It feels great to win our last home game,” said West, who made big plays on both ends of the court. “Everyone executed the way we needed to. We started making shots and started moving the ball around. Our teamwork was much better in the second half.”
Despite the loss, Randall sees positive strides in what has been an inconsistent season for his Spartans.
“Every night in this league it’s competitive,” Randall said. “When sectionals come you’ve already been in a lot of battles. We’re not focused on our record. We just want to get better for sectionals. I liked our effort. Tonight will definitely help us.”
Proctor 71, New Hartford 63
New Hartford 17 14 11 21 —63
Proctor 18 10 24 19 —71
New Hartford (5-4, 9-7): Frankie Policelli 6-13 25; Nick Courto 6-6 18; Noah German 4-4 13; Cooper Deck 2-1 5; Ryan Faro 1-0 2. Totals: 19-24-63. 3-Pointers: 1 (German).
Proctor (6-1, 11-4): Jalen Hawkins 18-5 43; McKinley West 7-1 17; Landon Johnson 0-4 4; Ramel Poole 2-0 4; Jacob Phoeurng 1-1 3. Totals: 28-11-71. 3-Pointers: 4 (Hawkins 2, West 2).
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at [email protected]