Newark and Palmyra-Macedon both play in the Finger Lakes East. The schools are about 12 miles apart. So what happens when two rivals square off with a Section V championship on the line?
An intense, seesaw battle that wasn’t decided until the final seconds, which is what happened Sunday night at Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial. Despite leading by nine points with just 54 seconds left, second-seeded Newark needed to hang on for a 68-65 win over No. 4 Palmyra-Macedon in the Class B1 boys basketball title game.
It’s the 12th trophy in school history, which ranks fifth all-time in Section V boys basketball and it’s the Reds’ first title since 2010 when coach Bob Havrilla won his first after succeeding longtime coach, Ron Ceravolo.
“It’s hard to get here. It’s hard to win. Section V has such good basketball … when you (win it), it’s a smile from ear to ear,” said Havrilla, whose team split regular-season matchups with Pal-Mac (15-8).
The Red Raiders were trying to win their first title since 2005. They were led by speedy junior guard Brandon Hawkins. He scored 15 points in the first half, when Pal-Mac used a 14-2 run to take a 24-18 lead. But Hawkins was held to just two free throws in the second half and didn’t score the final 11 minutes. Havrilla credited the defense of junior guard Nate Beard.
“He was a team player all the way,” Havrilla said.
Senior guard and team leader Jose Santell sparked Newark (17-5), which plays Wellsville (19-4) in Wednesday’s 8 p.m. state tournament qualifier at Mount Morris. The tournament MVP scored 14 of his 18 points in the final 9 minutes, 40 seconds. Center Taylor Clements, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, had 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks and sophomore swingman Ben Cowles added eight points and 13 big rebounds, including the one that sealed the game with three seconds left.
“Pal-Mac is our big rivals. It couldn’t be better than to beat that team,” Santell said. “They had me a little nervous. I’m not going to lie.”
Down 44-40 late in the third, Nick Synesael’s 3-pointer ignited a 15-3 run powered by Santell, who turned in a couple of conventional three-point plays on drives and drained a couple pull-up jumpers. With just 54 seconds left, the Reds led 66-57.
But Pal-Mac rallied.
Hunter VanDeVelde’s 3-pointer with 48 seconds left made it 66-61, then a Pal-Mac steal on the press and two Damien Wright free throws made it a three-point game. Santell’s free throws at 40 seconds made it 68-63, but Wright scored on a drive at :33 to make it a one-possesion game again. Newark traveled with 15 seconds left, but after a timeout Wright missed on a driving layup and Cowles ripped down the rebound to end it.
“This is the best feeling in the world. I can’t stop smiling. I’m so happy,” Santell said. “I can’t wait to go celebrate with my team after this.”
No. 2 Newark 68, No. 4 Palmyra-Macedon 65
Palmyra-Macedon 14 19 12 20 – 65
Newark 16 14 20 18 – 68
PAL-MAC: Brandon Hawkins 17, Davon McClain 13, Jayden Colf 0, Holden Knorr 9, Hunter VanDeVelde 11, Damien Wright 13, Frankie Saucedo 0, Tyler Mooney 2, Dominic Sutberry 0.
NEWARK: Ben Cowles 8, Jose Santell 18, Brian Sharp 13, Nate Beard 6, Taylor Clements 14, Logan Moynihan 0, Nick Fabino 0, Nick Synesael 9.
3-point goals: Pal-Mac (Hawkins 2, Knorr 1, VanDeVelde 2); Newark (Sharp 3, Beard, Synesael). Fouled out: Sharp.
All-Tournament team: Derek DeMartinis (Livonia), Sam Dagon (Hornell), Brandon Hawkins (Pal-Mac), Holden Knorr (Pal-Mac), Brian Sharp (Newark), Taylor Clements (Newark). MVP: Jose Santell (Newark).