Lions survive tough times to reach state finals

By Mike Zummo
Posted 3/22/23

It took until the last day of the season for the Chapel Field boys’ basketball team to lose to a Class D team.It was the loss that denied them the New York State Public High School Class D …

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Lions survive tough times to reach state finals


It took until the last day of the season for the Chapel Field boys’ basketball team to lose to a Class D team.
It was the loss that denied them the New York State Public High School Class D championship, as Section 5 champion Avoca-Prattsburgh scored 22 points each in the second and third quarters to beat the Lions, 70-48, in Sunday’s state championship game at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but I love this team,” senior Noah Swart said. “We made it through tough times, and it brought us here.”

It brought the team that practices in what is probably the smallest gym in New York State to the state’s biggest stage. Lions in the eyes of their crowd, after the team strolled across the empty court to their supporters, they were serenaded with a standing ovation.

“We had so much support from our fans the whole year,” Swart said. “They really came together for this. I’m sad we couldn’t get the job finished. The support they gave us, and the support we get through God, it’s a blessing.”

That tight-knit Chapel Field community got to watch Chapel Field history be made this year, as they won the school’s second regional championship, but became the first team to play in Glens Falls. The 1991 Lions qualified but were unable to participate in the Final Four due to a paperwork error.

Some of those players were in the crowd last weekend, and came to the school last week and shared their story.

“Some of those guys, when they found out that we were coming to this Final Four, broke down in tears,” Chapel Field coach McDuffie said. “It was that devastating to them as young players to qualify for the state Final Four, and because of a paperwork error, they weren’t allowed to compete. So, it meant a lot to those guys, and to our guys.”

The Lions just couldn’t overcome the Titans’ offense, especially the 3-point shooting of Haden Abbott, who knocked down six 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 32 points. Sawyer Devoe added 18 points and Evan Campbell scored 10.

After the Lions trailed by two points after the first quarter, the Titans outscored them 22-8 in the second quarter to take a 33-28 point lead. A 22-14 third-quarter gave them full control with a 60-36 lead.

Swart led the Lions with 19 points, and Jonah McDuffie added 16. However, McDuffie scored 13 of those points in the first half as, after an early run, the Lions doubled down on him.

“They started double-teaming Jonah and they put their best defenders on our guards,” Swart said. “Bryce (Hollo) got some fouls down low early, and we really couldn’t get the ball, and they were just lights out from the corner all night. I think that’s what killed us.”

This group of players is in the middle of an incredible run that started with last year’s basketball season. After winning the Section 9 championship during last winter’s basketball season, they advanced to the state championship game during the Spring 2022 baseball season and won the Section 9 championship in boys’ soccer.

“(I’ll remember) the brotherhood that we have,” Swart said. “The coaching staff, everyone that would be coming in on snow days when we have no school. All the hours put in over the summer, and the entire school year. It’s amazing.”


Chapel Field 47,
North Warren 46

Leam Powell scored the game-winning layup with 11 seconds left in the game and then he tipped away a final shot attempt, as the Lions advanced to the state title game with a one-point win over the Section 2 champion North Warren Cougars.

The Lions, who had trailed most of the game, grabbed a two-point lead late in the third quarter but trailed by six with 3 minutes to go in the fourth. However, Jonah McDuffie cut the lead in half with a 3-pointer and Bryce Hollow pulled the Lions to within one point with a layup, setting up Powell’s heroics.

Powell, a senior, is the key pitcher on the baseball team, and is playing his first year of organized basketball.

“That was fun to see Leam get that,” coach McDuffie said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Leam Powell making the decision to come play basketball. The whole season I was holding my breath because, God forbid, a knee injury or something prevented him from having his senior year of baseball. It was his choice. I did not ask him to come out for the team. That was his choice, and so ultimately, what a sacrifice he made to do that.”

Noah Swart led the Lions with 14 points, while Mike Bonagura and Jonah McDuffie added 11 each.