Advertisement

High school basketball: Sackets Harbor boys set red-hot pace early, hold off Avoca-Prattsburgh to reach state final

Mar. 17—GLENS FALLS — Austin Griner and his Sackets Harbor teammates felt right at home from the start on the stage of the state final four.

Sparked by Griner, the Patriots came out draining a barrage of long-range baskets and eventually edged the former reigning state champion Avoca-Prattsburgh, 58-57, on Saturday in a Class D state semifinal at Cool Insuring Arena.

With the victory, Sackets Harbor improves to 25-1 on the season and advances to play Section 2 champion North Warren in Sunday's state final at 3 p.m. at the same venue.

"It feels great, we worked hard for this all season and I just think our time is coming," Griner said. "I think we're just going to go out and play with everything we have."

The Patriots rode an early flurry of 3-pointers and later made a defensive stand in the final minutes to prevail.

Griner came out red hot to start the game as he connected on four 3-pointers in the first quarter, including draining three on his first three shots of the game.

"I just thought this could be my last game, so I said I might as well go out, give it all I have and play hard for my team and for myself," said Griner, who scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the first half, with all five of his baskets coming on 3-pointers.

Overall, the Patriots connected on 12 3-pointers in the game, including nine before halftime.

"What a great game," Sackets Harbor coach Jeff Robbins said. "They're two-time defending state champs, so they're coming in expecting to win. We came out on fire with our threes."

Said Griner: "I felt good, obviously it feels good starting out the game hot, I don't know, I just felt great out there."

Griner would total six 3-pointers in the game, while junior Ethan Shi made four of his own, including three in the first half.

"It felt great, my teammates just trust me and I just hit the shots," said Shi, who scored nine of his 15 points in the first half.

"He played great," Griner said of Shi. "He did the same thing last year in sectionals and he's doing now again, clutch, he just laid down good shots."

Six of these long-range shots would come in the first quarter as junior Marcus Castine hit one to provide his team with a 20-13 advantage to cap the period.

"I think they came in with a lot of confidence and that kind of carried us early on and as the game went on, we just gutted it out," Robbins said.

Shi connected for two of his 3-pointers in the second quarter and Griner followed with another one as the Patriots led by as many seven points, but the Titans closed within three points at 34-31 by halftime.

"Our team, we rely on him, he's the best player on our team obviously," Shi said of Griner. "When he drives he creates opportunities for other people and lets them have open shots."

Avoca-Prattsburgh drew within one point early in the second half, but Sackets Harbor later engineered a 7-0 run to lead by 12 in the third quarter.

"We definitely felt confident coming into the game because we know that if we shut down teams that we can shut down, it's going to come out the way we want it to," Castine said.

But the game tightened up in the final quarter as the Patriots scored only four points in the final period.

Griner drained a three to provide his team with a 57-49 lead in the first minute.

"Just stay composed, play with poise," Griner said. "The last game we were down 17 in the third quarter, so I think we're just used to having teams go on runs and that's what basketball is, it's a game of runs. So I thought we were just confident in ourselves and our abilities to come out with the win."

The Titans (14-10) responded with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 57-all on lay-in from Daniel Stilson with 55.4 seconds remaining.

"We've been in those situations before, you've just got to stay poised and get stops," Robbins said. "I think we slowed it down a little bit too early, I think we were trying to like nurse the lead, I called timeout with about six minutes to go and said 'guys there's way too much time left on the clock to start nursing it, we've got to keep playing, we've got to keep attacking."

Later, Shi converted on the first of two free throws with 39.5 seconds left to provide his team with the 58-57 edge.

Then with the Patriots applying their pressure defense, junior Dylan Aubert made a steal in the closing seconds to help seal the win.

"We talked about it (at halftime) and said 'do a better job in the defensive end,' but they're tough, their kid inside was good and their point guard was good and that No. 1 was hitting shots," Robbins said. "But it came down to getting that last stop, we got that last stop and we gutted it out and I'm just really proud of them."

Stilson scored a game-high 23 points and totaled 11 rebounds for Section 5's Avoca-Prattsburgh, and Jaeden Crowder contributed 15 points.

Sackets Harbor will now tangle with North Warren, which defeated Section 11's Smithtown Christian, 51-46, in the earlier semifinal.

"We played them actually in a summer team camp at St. Lawrence," Robbins said. "So we know they're good, they're talented, they're long, they're athletic; they play with confidence. So they're going to be a really tough task."

Sackets Harbor also reached the state title game for the first time in 12 years when it won a state championship in Class D in the 2011-12 season.

"It's amazing," Robbins said of Griner's impact on the team over the years. "He's been with me since fourth grade as a manager. He's been in the gym all the time, he's another one that loves the big stage, he doesn't shy away from the moment. So he'll be ready tomorrow, he's played tremendous for us."

"It's been 12 years since we've been here," Griner added. "It's a surreal moment, I'm just proud of me and my team, we've worked hard for it all season. And now we're just going to go get it, just get it done as a team."