NEWFIELD – Newfield boys’ basketball coach Duane Barrett thinks his team’s 14-point loss to Watkins Glen in the final game of the regular season, a loss his team avenged last Saturday in the sectional final, was nothing but a good thing.
“It’s always been my belief that a champion is never really a champion until he’s suffered a loss,” Barrett said. “You need to go through that process to understand what it is, what it feels like, to actually become a true champion and really appreciate it.”
His team’s state quarterfinal opponent, Waterville, obviously would like to take issue with that sentiment.
The top-ranked Class C team in New York state, and unbeaten in 23 outings, Waterville will provide a sizable obstacle to the Trojans and their dream of the school’s first state championship. It will take three more victories for either the Trojans (20-1) or the Indians to reach that goal, with the winner of Saturday’s 5 p.m. state quarterfinal clash at SUNY Oneonta heading to Glens Falls next weekend for the championship round.
Newfield captured its fifth Section 4 championship, and first in 10 years, last Saturday with a gut-wrenching 53-48 defeat of the Senecas at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. The game was one of wild swings — Watkins Glen outscored Newfield in the third quarter, 14-0, to take a 12-point lead into the final eight minutes, in which the Trojans and their man-to-man pressure defense outscored the Senecas, 25-8.
“I think we were able to keep our heads when we were down,” said senior point guard Brian Barrett, nephew of the head coach, comparing last Saturday’s game to the 49-35 loss two weeks earlier in Watkins Glen. “We were able to stay together, and we came out with some intensity in the fourth quarter and built off of that.”
“I think we came out a little sluggish in the second half,” senior Devin Cooper said. “Maybe we looked at the scoreboard a little too much, tried not to lose instead of trying to win. Fourth quarter, we looked at the scoreboard and didn’t want to go out like that, so we just buckled down and got stops, got baskets.”
Waterville, which lost in the state semifinals last season and rose to No. 1 in Class C this season following a 101-22 drubbing of Mount Markham in mid-December, has had its own trials and tribulations recently. After what Coach Coby Maxam called his team’s worst game of the year in a 42-32 victory over Onondaga Central in the Section 3 semifinals, the Indians found themselves down 10-2 early in last Sunday’s sectional final against Watertown Immaculate Heart Central.
But the defending champs quickly got themselves back in the game with an 8-0 run, and survived a tense fourth quarter to prevail, 53-50.
The senior-driven squad — Maxam’s lineup features nine seniors, five of whom start — is led by 6-foot-4 guard and leading scorer Zach Sawyer (21.8 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game) and 6-5 center Hunter Williams (12.8 ppg., 7.0 rpg.). The Indians, whose starters also include 6-6 senior forward Will Specht, have used their size to dominate most of their opponents in Section 3.
But Newfield will be able to offer some resistance in the forms of Cooper and classmate Dekhari Stewart (9.5 ppg., 8.5 rpg.), both of whom stand about 6-5.
“I like our chances,” Cooper said. “They have a lot of size but I feel like we have more athleticism. Me and Dekhari are pretty quick, ‘Q’ (freshman Quintel Clements) is quick, and then I think we have the best defender in the state in Cole (Banfield, senior point guard).
“It’s going to be a tough game, a really tough game,” he said, “but I think we can come out with the win.”
The Trojans went to Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena last Sunday to watch Waterville get past Watertown IHC in their sectional final. Coach Barrett came away both impressed and encouraged.
“They’re very big, they’re physical, they understand what their roles are,” he said. “But having said that, we like our chances. We obviously see some things that we can do against them. Our plan is to make them very uncomfortable.”
Not only can Waterville dominate on the interior, but it can shoot the 3-pointer. The team has made a school-record 128 from beyond the arc, led by seniors Jake English (29) and Sawyer (25). Newfield has made 104 from long range, led by Barrett, who’s 52-for-111 for 46.8 percent.
Players and coaches alike agree that its late-season stumble at Watkins Glen has prepared Newfield well for the rigors of playoff basketball. It might have already yielded dividends, given its third-quarter skunking against those same Senecas last weekend in the sectional final.
“I think it (losing) motivated us for the next time,” Brian Barrett said. “Watkins Glen is a great team, and they were at their place, loud crowd. We didn’t like to lose, nobody does, but it was a good motivator for us, and we needed that, I think.”
“We knew we had to figure out what we did wrong so we didn’t do it again,” Stewart said, “and it made us hungrier for the next time we played. Not only against Watkins, but for every other game, too, so we don’t lose again.”
Coach Barrett guided the Trojans to back-to-back sectional titles in 2004 (Class C) and 2005 (Class D), with the ’05 team advancing to Glens Falls before falling to eventual state runner-up Fort Edward in the semis, 75-72.
NOTES: Newfield also reached the state final four in Class D in 1990, falling to eventual runner-up Avoca, and in 1986 won its first sectional title and advanced all the way to the state championship game, where it lost 94-57 to Bridgehampton. … Despite Saturday’s game being in Section 4, Waterville figures to have a large, vocal contingent. The town is only an hour away from Oneonta. … The Newfield-Waterville game will be preceded at 3 p.m. by a state Class C girls’ quarterfinal between Watkins Glen and Cooperstown.
What: State Class C quarterfinal
Who: No. 7 Newfield (20-1) vs. No. 1 Waterville (23-0)
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Alumni Field House, SUNY Oneonta
Radio: ESPN Ithaca (1160/107.1)
Leaders: For Newfield, sr. G Brian Barrett (15.0 ppg, 52-for-111 3-ptrs., 4.2 apg.); sr. F Devin Cooper (10.6 ppg., 7.2 rpg.), sr. F Dekhari Stewart (9.5 ppg., 8.5 rpg.). For Waterville, sr. G Zach Sawyer (21.8 ppg., 7.4 rpg., 3.3 apg.); sr. C Hunter Williams (12.5 ppg., 7.0 rpg.); sr. F Will Specht (8.7 ppg.).