Hartford sports round-up, March 2, 2023

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The Hartford girls basketball team defeated Salem Saturday to advance to their second straight Class D title game. (Photo by Lori Severance)
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Hartford upsets top-seed Salem, 56-50

Hartford girls basketball coach Jason Johnson has been preaching the same message all season long. After winning the Section II Class D crown a year ago and advancing to the state Final Four, Johnson had to replace three starters, including a pair of 1,000-point scorers. The target this year was not the Adirondack League title – to be ready to make a run in the postseason again was the goal.

On Saturday Hartford took a major step toward that goal as the four-seed took down top-seed Salem, 56-50, in the Class D semifinals at Averill Park High School.

The win avenged a 51-46 loss earlier in the season.

“I couldn’t be more ecstatic with the way these kids have come along since the first day we played,” Johnson said.

It didn’t look good early on as the Tanagers fell behind 11-0 out of the gate. A 3-pointer from McKenzie Johnson broke the ice for Hartford, but they still trailed 13-5 at the end of the first.

In the second quarter the Tanagers came alive, and they did it via the long ball. Trailing 16-5, Johnson and Cailin Severance caught fire from behind the arc. A trey by Severance gave Hartford its first lead of the game. The Tanagers opened up a 23-19 lead, but Salem ended the stanza on a 7-0 spurt to lead 26-23 at the half, with Mary Kate McPhee knocking down a 3-pointer to put the General back in front.

“When McKenzie and I started both hitting our threes we started to feed off each other,” Severance said. “I just kept putting up what I could and knocking them down so it kept me on a roll.”

After falling behind and struggling to score early on, Severance knew she had to step up and that last year’s state semifinal experience would help.

“I knew we had to win. There was no other option because if we didn’t win we go home, and we can’t go home,” Severance said.

“Sometimes I think we play better while in intense situations because of how things were last year for us,” she said. “We know how to push through because we’ve been in that situation with a lot of pressure.”

Hartford recovered from the latest Generals’ barrage with a streak of its own, ripping off a 7-0 run to regain the lead at 30-26.

It was nip and tuck the rest of the way with neither team able to pull away. A baseline jumper from Reaghan Liebig put the Tanagers ahead to stay.

Hartford hit just enough free throws down the stretch to close out the win.

Johnson netted a game-high 22 points to lead the Tanagers. Severance added 15 on five 3-pointers. Alawnah Dunda chipped in eight and was a strong force on the boards.

McPhee had 16 points for Salem. Sophia Keays contributed 15 and Hannah Gongola 11.

Hartford is now 8-13 and more importantly is one victory away from consecutive sectional championships.

The Tanagers will meet two-seed Bishop Gibbons in the final Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.

This could be the beginning of something special for a Hartford team with no seniors on the roster.

“In the beginning of the year, we got our butts beaten up a little bit, but we moved on from there and here we are moving on to the finals,” coach Johnson said.

Salem ends the season 15-6.

Hartford boys lose tough one, 59-54

The North Warren boys basketball team advanced to the Section II Class D semifinals with a 59-54 win over Hartford at Stillwater High School.

“It was a solid win against a well-coached team,” North Warren coach James Cuyler said. “It was quite a battle, like a sectional game should be.”

The seven-seed Tanagers battled the two-seed Cougars hard the entire way. North Warren led by 11 at the end of the first quarter and at the half.

In the third Hartford pulled within striking distance, outscoring North Warren 17-12 to close within six heading to the final frame.

Hartford continued to fight and drew even in the fourth before North Warren got the job done down the stretch.

Cuyler credited Sean Evans and Elijah Horge with shutting down Hartford’s top scorer Raymond Harrington, holding him to just five points.

Evans, Horge and Semaj Cyler each scored 11 points for the Cougars.

Zach Hopper scored 10 points and Wyatt Jennings added nine for North Warren. Cooper Morehouse hauled in 14 rebounds for the Cougars.

Drake Stewart paced Hartford with 15 points. Nate Fiske chipped in 11 and Austin Wells 10 for the Tanagers.

North Warren moved to 16-5 and will meet Argyle Thursday in the semifinals at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. It will be the third contest of the year between the Cougars and Scots. North Warren has won the first two.

Even with the loss Hartford coach Jason Harrington praised his players.

“It was a great season. I’m proud of them,” Harrington said.

Hartford ends the season 7-15.