Dom LeMorta and Scott Stopera were two of the players Scotia-Glenville coach Jim Giammattei sent on to the Glens Falls Civic Center basketball court as the Tartans were wrapping up their 2012 Section II Class A championship against Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.
“We got out there for about 30 seconds, and that was our motivation,” LeMorta said. “We wanted to experience it for ourselves. We wanted to be a part of it.”
Last weekend, the two underclassmen were a much bigger part of it, playing from beginning to end when Scotia-Glenville repeated its title run with a 53-45 victory over Glens Falls.
“They know their roles, and they play them well,” Giammattei said of his first-year starters, who got their first taste of sectional basketball as late-season call-ups from the junior varsity. “They’ve been huge cogs. They do so many little things for us.”
Some big ones, too, like LeMorta’s three-pointer that kick-started an 8-1 fourth-quarter run that essentially put Glens Falls away. Stopera nailed a pair of important first-half threes while the Tartans were building their big lead in Wednesday’s regional semifinal against Massena, his first coming in a tone-setting 10-2 run, and his second in a put-away 13-0 spurt.
Scotia-Glenville (22-0) won that game, 89-46, to land a berth in tonight’s regional final against Bishop Ludden (Section III, 19-2) at Onondaga Community College.
“For a lot of first-year guys on the varsity, it’s a tough year,” said Scotia-Glenville junior Alex Sausville. “Stepping on the Hudson Valley and Glens Falls floor, it can be overwhelming. Look at them, and you wouldn’t be able to tell.”
Giammattei came into this season with only three players who had seen significant varsity action in Joe Cremo, Andrew Tabbert and Sausville, who served as the team’s sixth man.
“Starting was a goal. I worked hard all summer. I got up at 6, 7 in the morning working for this moment,” Stopera, a 5-foot-5 sophomore guard, said Thursday after practice. “Both of my brothers started as sophomores, and that motivated me.”
“We knew Scotty was good. He’s a Stopera. It’s in his bloodline,” said Giammattei. “His brothers [Mike and Jeff] played for me, and his dad (S-G assistant coach Glenn] was a pretty good player at Linton.”
Stopera got his first start in Scotia-Glenville’s sixth game against South Glens Falls, and his ball distribution and pesky defense helped the Tartans post a 69-31 win. He’s been a fixture ever since.
“We don’t just give spots to sophomores. You’ve got to show you want that spot,” said Giammattei. “Even Terell Winney didn’t win a spot until his eighth game as a sophomore.”
Though Stopera has made some timely baskets, he is a pass-first piece of the Tartans’ offensive equation. He said he doesn’t mind, knowing more scoring opportunities will come in future years.
“I try to get guys the ball,” he said. “I try to get them good looks so they can get their points.”
Stopera had seven first-half assists when the Tartans built a 49-32 lead over Lansingburgh in an 81-41 sectional semifinal win.
“What Scotty does better than anyone in our league is make the simple 12-foot pass. He does it over and over again. That kind of unselfishness you don’t see. He keeps the assembly line moving,” said Giammattei. “Guys know when Scotty has the ball, they’re going to get it.”
Stopera can hit from deep, as well, showing 21 three-point baskets, third most among the Tartans.
“Leave him alone, and it’s a mistake,” said Giammattei. “In the Gloversville game, he hit three threes. He does a good job of picking his spots.”
LeMorta leads the Tartans with 44 three-point baskets. The 6-1 junior forward went 6-for-6 on threes in the first half against Lansingburgh.
“He’s as close to Ray Allen as you’ll get. He has an unbelievably quick release, and he has the mannerisms. He’s stoic. He’ll make a basket and just run down the floor,” said Giammattei. “He’s like a pro out there.”
LeMorta dropped in four threes to help the Tartans take charge in the first half against Massena.
“The big shots are the ones I like to make, in the big games,” said LeMorta. “I thought the one against Glens Falls was huge for us. The lead went from six to nine and we were on our way.”
“Grab some rebounds and make some shots,” said Giammattei. “He knows what his job is, and he does it well.”
LeMorta snagged nine rebounds to go with his 12 points in the Glens Falls game. He took down six more boards to go with his 14 points against Massena.
“Going into the year, I wanted to become a better defender and rebounder. I could always shoot. I wanted to become a better all-around player,” LeMorta said. “I think I got a lot better.”