VERONA – After playing a sloppy first half that led to a four-point deficit, New Hartford’s three seniors had 16 minutes to extend their high school careers.
Cooper Deck, Noah German and Ryan Faro all made huge contributions as the Spartans completely dominated the second half in a 67-44 victory over Vernon-Verona-Sherrill in Friday night’s Class A first-round game at VVS High School.
German scored 16 points, Deck had 10 and Faro added eight, including two big 3-pointers for the Spartans (12-9), who advance to play top-seeded Christian Brothers Academy Tuesday night in a quarterfinal game. Sophomore Davey Moffett scored 16 points to lead the Red Devils (14-7).
“Coming into the game I had a feeling I’ve never had before,” Deck said. “I thought this could be the last time I put on this jersey. I think we were all feeling the pressure a bit and came out flat.”
The Red Devils played the first half on their terms, forcing the Spartans to play in the half court. That pace gave New Hartford trouble as they were unable to get easy shots in transition and forced passes.
“We had a lot of unforced errors in first half,” New Hartford head coach John Randall said. “We were trying to get the ball into spots that weren’t open. Give VVS credit, they forced us into a half-court game and played well.”
Behind a 10-3 run, the Red Devils were able to build a 29-22 in the closing seconds of the first half. New Hartford was able to grab some momentum as Troy Henderson beat the halftime buzzer with a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut VVS’s lead to four.
“I think the three-point shot by Troy at the end of the half really sparked us going into the half and coming out in the second half,” New Hartford sophomore star Frankie Policelli said.
The Spartans came out of the locker room inspired and quickly cut into the lead on German’s hoop and free throw. After Dewey Roden’s post bucket gave the Red Devils a 3-point advantage, Ryan Faro hit a 3-pointer, then added two more from the foul line to give the Spartans the lead for good.
New Hartford’s defensive pressure, quarterbacked by the 6-7 Policelli, forced numerous turnovers and easy buckets that helped the Spartans build a 10-point lead midway through the third.
“In the second half I forced our kids to go out and get after it,” Randall said. “They all responded. When you get Frankie’s length on top of that 1-2-2 press, it’s tough to handle and forces a lot of tough passes.”
Deck gave Randall credit for ramping up the defensive pressure.
“I think the difference in the game was that coach put us in a three-quarter-court press,” Deck said. “That made it more of a full court game instead of a half court game. It changed the dynamic of the entire game. We like to play fast and when we get going and playing fast, we are a tough team to beat.”
The pressure and frenzied pace also put Deck in his element. The senior point guard forced numerous jump balls and turnovers with his scrappy play.
“These three seniors didn’t want to go out yet,” Randall said. “When Cooper’s diving all over, it becomes contagious. At first Cooper’s diving, then Nick (Courto) and Noah are diving.”
The onslaught continued as the Spartans closed the quarter with a 48-35 advantage. The Red Devils fought hard in the fourth, but could pull no closer than 12 points.
“In the first half, we executed really well and got ball where we wanted to,” Cossette said. “And Davey and Dewey finished around the basket. In the second half, we had problems getting the ball past half court against their pressure and that was the difference in the game.”
Moffett, who is one of the top underclassmen in the section, was disappointed in how quickly the game turned after such a promising start.
“We played really well in the first half,” Moffett said. “We played really good defense. We doubled down on their big men and forced turnovers. In the second half, I think we thought we had them and they came out and humbled us.”
Policelli finished with 14 points, including a two-handed slam in the first half. Courto and Henderson finished with seven points apiece for the Spartans, who will need contributions from everyone if they hope to knock off the Brothers.
“I know a lot of them,” Policelli said referring to CBA’s players. “It’s going to be a great game and a great atmosphere. It should be a fast game and we can’t get rattled and need to stay focused and stay determined.”
Randall also is looking forward to the challenge and knows anything can happen in one game.
“It’s one game, 32 minutes,” Randall said. “We’ll do all we can to prepare the kids, and they’ll do all they can to compete.”
New Hartford 67, VVS 44
New Hartford 14 11 23 19—67
VVS 14 15 6 9—44
New Hartford (12-9): Noah German 5-5 16; Frankie Policelli 6-2 14; Cooper Deck 3-2 10; Ryan Faro 2-2 8; Nick Courto 2-3 7; Troy Henderson 2-2 7; Nico Policelli 1-0 3; Justin Alpert 0-2 2. Totals: 21-18 67. 3-Pointers: 7 (German, Faro 2, Deck 2, Henderson, Nico Policelli).
VVS (14-7): Davey Moffett 6-3 16; Dewey Roden 3-0 6; Nate Palmer 1-4 6; Zack Bitz 2-0 5; Matt Hilts 2-1 5; Connor VanDreason 1-0 2; Rylin Turley 1-0 2; Jordan Schaefer 1-0 2. Totals: 17-8 42. 3-Pointers: None.