Adam Cutspec waited three years for this.
Cutspec last won a sectional game as a freshman. Now, the senior center and his Fort Plain teammates can add another one to the books.
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The No. 4 Hilltoppers used a swarming defense and an effective transition game to run out to a 17-3 lead and never looked back, beating No. 13 Middleburgh, 75-35, in the first round of the Section II Class C playoffs Wednesday.
Fort Plain (14-7) will face No. 5
Maple Hill, a 71-48 winner over
No. 12 Salem, at noon Saturday at the University at Albany.
“The last few years we’ve lost in the first round, so this is good getting to go to UAlbany and play,” Cutspec said.
Cutspec led Fort Plain with 18 points, scoring 12 in the second quarter. Classmate Shayne Hinkle scored 11 points off the bench, and point guard Elijah Braemer, another senior, efficiently ran the Toppers’ fast break. Every player in uniform scored for the Hilltoppers.
Cody Sellick, a senior center, scored 12 points to lead the Knights (3-17).
“We worked really hard this season to get a home game — that was important to the kids,” Fort Plain coach Casey Russom said. “They came out with great intensity. They showed it on the defensive end.”
The Hilltoppers capitalized early and often, converting four steals into nine points across the first 3:13.
Hinkle tipped a Knights pass in the backcourt to Braemer, who pushed it upcourt. Inside the lane, Braemer hit Cutspec with a bounce pass for a bucket and a 13-2 advantage with 4:47 to play.
“When we get out and run, that’s our best game,” Braemer said.
“We’re a very athletic team,” Russom said. “We’re quick and have good speed, and if we get out and run, fill the lanes, get easy baskets, we’re good in the open floor. And I think the kids did a good job of outletting the ball.”
With close losses in the previous two sectional openers, Braemer said setting the tone was important.
“We as a team knew that we had to come out strong against these guys,” Braemer said. “We knew if we did not come out strong, they could have got on us.”
The Knights held their own on the boards early, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the first quarter. But they could only convert those into one field goal, a three-pointer by Pat Sheehan with 11 seconds to go to make it 17-6. After Fort Plain turned it over on an offensive foul, Jordan Russell hit a one-handed runner with one second remaining to bring Middleburgh to within 17-8.
That was the last time Fort Plain’s lead would be in the single digits, as the Hilltoppers began the second quarter on an 8-0 run, with four points each from Cutspec and James Thomas, for a 25-8 lead with 5:40 left before halftime.
“We struggled to finish early and that was a factor because when you get a good look, especially off a second chance where it’s just hard work, you miss and they go down and they get a two or a three, that just takes the wind out of your sails,” Middleburgh coach Gregg Johns said.
The Toppers continued to stretch their lead for the rest of the half, with Cutspec stealing the ball just beyond midcourt, stumbling but continuing to dribble and drive for a layup and a 39-13 lead at the halftime buzzer.
“I have to give it to them,” Johns said. “They were fired up, ready, the crowd was behind them, their defense was stellar, they had some good outside shots.”
After the win, the Hilltoppers were looking forward to heading to UAlbany on Saturday.
“We like the big courts,” Russom said. “The kids seem to like it. They’re excited about it. You know, small school getting to go play in a big gym like that is great for the kids.”
Roney 1-0-2, Crook 0-0-0, Sellick 5-2-12, Sheehan 2-0-5, Ostrander 1-2-4, Nunamann 1-0-2, Russell 3-0-6, Wynia 1-0-2, Whittaker 1-0-2. Totals: 15-4-35.
Bowers 2-3-8, Thomas 4-0-8, Cutspec 9-0-18, Kuntzsch 1-1-3, Braemer 2-1-6, Hinkle 3-3-11, Gattman 1-0-2, Resch 3-0-6, Kane 2-0-4, Tomlinson 2-0-4, Smith 0-1-1, Barhydt 1-2-4. Totals: 30-11-75.
Middleburgh 8 5 4 18 — 35
Fort Plain 17 22 17 19 — 75
Three-point goals: Sheehan, Bowers, Braemer, Hinkle 2.