The boys basketball teams for Scotia-Glenville and Shenendehowa were in close quarters this past weekend, as both successfully invaded the Glens Falls Civic Center and captured large-school state championships.
Being together is nothing new for the Tartans and Plainsmen. Players from both teams grew up competing against each other, train together during the offseason, and hang out off the court.
“Basketball is more than just a game for us,” said Scotia-Glenville senior Joe Cremo, MVP of the Class A tournament. “It has made us friendships.”
“It’s gotten that close for us where we hang out together outside of basketball,” added Shenendehowa junior Kevin Huerter, the MVP of the Class AA tournament.
The players for Scotia-Glenville and Shenendehowa grew up playing against one another in travel leagues, molding their games as competitors. The memories from those battles are still fresh. Minutes after his team successfully defended its state title with a 54-49 victory against Greece Athena High School, Scotia-Glenville senior Scott Stopera laughed Sunday as he remembered when his group battled the Shenendehowa players in a travel game years ago.
“We were back in the fourth or fifth grade and we’re up 2 — and Kevin Huerter shoots a half-court shot, makes it, and it’s game over, we lose,” said Stopera, whose high school team has won 53 consecutive games between this season and last.
In recent years, the stars for the championship-winning squads from schools a little more than 10 miles apart have been able to become friends. Scotia-Glenville and Shenendehowa never see each other during the regular season — the squads play in different leagues — and cannot meet in the postseason since they are in different classifications, making friendship possible without rivalry.
“Not having to play them, we don’t have to worry about them,” said Stopera. “If we still had to play them, I don’t think we could be as close of friends.”
“Back then [when we were younger], we were just competing against them,” said Huerter. “But when we won our regional championship game against Henninger, a bunch of Scotia guys and us went out to Buffalo Wild Wings together after it.”
Guys from both clubs have played together in AAU tournaments, while most of the mutual court time for the Plainsmen and Tartans has come in the form of offseason workouts. Training together, the players for the area’s two best large-school programs have continued to help each other grow. Steve Dagostino, who runs a locally based basketball training service called Dags Basketball, has worked with both Scotia-Glenville and Shenendehowa players for the past four years and said the programs’ athletes mirror each other in how hard they work at their games.
“You’re not going to go to a game and see someone out-compete Scotia or out-compete Shenendehowa,” said Dagostino, who played in high school for Guilderland before playing at The College of Saint Rose. “Every time those guys step on the court, they’re playing harder than any other team.”
That hard work helped get both programs to the Civic Center for the conclusion of this year’s state tournaments. Doug Kenyon, the tournament’s director, said it was a “dream scenario” for the tournament to have local products in both Scotia-Glenville and Shenendehowa win state titles Sunday after another Section II squad — Lake George in Class C — won a state title Saturday night. The local flavor helped bring 18,363 people to the three-day tournament, which Kenyon said was a top-10 attendance showing in the tournament’s three-plus decades at the Civic Center.
“This is also just really great for Section II basketball,” said Mike Lilac, the chairman emeritus for the Section II boys basketball committee, a section that won three state championships for the third consecutive season.
Mostly, though, Sunday was great for the players from Scotia-Glenville and Shenendehowa. Speaking inbetween Scotia-Glenville and Shenendehowa’s victories, Cremo smiled and nodded when asked if there might be a post-game party Sunday night for the teams.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Buffalo Wild Wings.”
Shenendehowa senior Thomas Huerter, an all-tournament selection and Kevin Huerter’s brother, said his team’s 76-63 state title victory against Brentwood was sweetened because it followed Scotia-Glenville’s win.
“This is not only something we can share with our Shen family, we can share it with those guys, too,” he said. “Scotia’s a great team and we’ve all been friends for a few years now, and they’re a lot of fun to be around. Credit to them for winning, and we’re definitely going to share this moment together.”