So young, yet so good.
That’s Scotia-Glenville super sophomore Joe Cremo, whose ability to finish at both ends of the basketball court played a huge role as the Tartans won 22 straight games and captured their second straight Section II Class A championship along the way.
“It’s been years in the making for this kid,” Scotia-Glenville coach Jim Giammattei said Cremo, who heads the annual Gazette All-Area Basketball Team. “Joe does the work, and we provide the opportunity. He’s a sponge. To Joe, this is like a full-time job.”
The 16-year-old’s work rate this season was phenomenal. Though he was pulled early in many one-sided contests, the 6-foot-3 Foothills Council and Section II tournament Most Valuable Player still averaged 21 points and 12.4 rebounds to go with 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals.
Cremo scored a career-high 32 points and snared 16 rebounds in a 72-50 win over Cohoes while playing on a sprained ankle. He notched 31 points and 17 boards in a 70-49 triumph over Gloversville. When the Tartans completed their 14-0 run through the Foothills Council with a 75-57 win over Queensbury, he recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
“He does everything. He’s the second coming of [2011 Daily Gazette All-Area first-team pick] Terell Winney, just bigger,” Giammattei said. “When we needed him to score for us, he produced. He held down the back of our zone. He rebounded like a bloodhound. He would hunt it down.”
Scotia-Glenville’s fast-break offense was often sprung after a Cremo rebound and outlet pass. The Tartans’ tallest starter had games with 21 and 20 boards.
“Rebounding is wanting the basketball, and he sticks his nose in there,” said Giammattei. “What’s impressive about Joe is the [defensive] rebounds he gets out of our zone. He’s not getting just the ones that come to him. It’s the ones in between.”
Cremo did a bunch of his scoring on offensive rebounds and putbacks, while also sifting between defenders with crafty moves, and by finishing on the break. He reached 20 points once as a freshman, and did that 17 times in 23 outings this season while shooting 56.8 percent from the field. Cremo led the way with 28 points when the Tartans roughed up Massena, 89-46, for the first regional win in program history.
“He has unbelievable hands. There’s always a catch before the finish,” Giammattei said. “So many times I’d say to one of my assistants, ‘How did he catch the ball?’ ”
Cremo scored at least 11 points in every contest, and averaged 20 in the Tartans’ five postseason games. He wrapped up Section II MVP honors with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in a 53-45 title-game win over Glens Falls. In an 81-41 semifinal win over Lansingburgh before, he totaled 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
“He took 15, 16 shots a night,” said Giammattei. “Nine-for-15, 10-for-15, that was common. He needed few shots to produce his points.”
Javion Ogunyemi scored over 20 points in five of Troy’s six postseason games, topped by a career-high 26 when the Flying Horses beat Green Tech for the Section II Class AA championship, 70-55.
“Down the stretch, he was the best player in the area,” Flying Horses’ coach Rich Hurley said of his 6-9 Siena College-bound forward. “He put Troy on his back and won us a sectional title. Then he goes out and plays great in the regionals and the state semifinals.”
Ogunyemi’s playoff run ended in the quarterfinals against Bethlehem last season when the two-time Big 10 first-team all-star sustained a broken ankle. Troy eventually lost to Christian Brothers Academy in an overtime final, 62-57.
“He watched us lose a heartbreaker. Afterward he said, ‘I’ll be here next year,’ ” Hurley recalled. “He went two hours a day, five days a week, and then he’d come back at night to work on his jump shot. He really put in the effort to get back.”
And what a superb season Ogunyemi put forth, averaging 18.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.7 blocks for the 20-4 Flying Horses. He closed on a strong note with 21 points and seven rebounds in a 60-52 regional win over Henninger, and 24 points and 10 rebounds in a 65-58 overtime loss to Bishop Kearney in the state semis. Ogunyemi made the state tournament all-star team after being named the Section II tourney’s MVP.
“His skill set is tremendous. For a 6-9 kid, above the rim is not his game. He’s a poor man’s Tim Duncan,” said Hurley, who saw Ogunyemi scored 10 points or more in every game but one. “He uses both hands. He’s got the drop step and the short jumper. He’s good at the up-and-under. He’ll take you of the dribble. He knows how to feel a defense.”
Ogunyemi averaged 11.8 points as a junior with a high of 19. He reached 20 11 times this season.
“He’s got a bright future. He’s going to get bigger and stronger,” said Hurley. “I can see him playing a significant role [at Siena] by the midway point of his sophomore season. At least that’s the goal.”
After showing flashes last season, Greig Stire developed into a consistent offensive threat and led Christian Brothers Academy to the Big 10 championship.
“Great things are ahead of him because of his work ethic. He improved from last season to this season, and I think there’s more to come down the road,” CBA coach Dave Doemel said of his 6-7 junior. “He will add things to his game.”
The most significant addition this season was a mid-range jumper to go with his layups, putbacks and slam dunks. Stire even sank 11 three-point baskets after rarely roaming away from the lane as a sophomore.
“Sometimes, he’d get into foul trouble going to the rim,” said Doemel. “I told him, ‘You can put it in from 12 to 15 [feet].’ He had it in him, but he didn’t have the confidence to do it.”
A more sure athlete, Stire averaged 17 points with highs of 32 and 26 twice, the second time when CBA lost to Green Tech in the Class AA semifinals, 64-60.
“He had a great game against Green Tech. He rose to the occasion,” said Doemel of the Section II all-tournament team selection. “Him and Junior [Jamil Hood] were matching back and forth. They put on a good show.”
Stire displayed his potential last season with 12 points and 14 rebounds when CBA beat Troy in overtime, 62-57, for the Section II title. He had scored in double figures only twice before that, with 13 and 11-point outings.
“We had to have more offense from him,” said Doemel, who lost leading scorers Joe Krong, Chaz Lott and Christian Leppanen to graduation. “He wanted to let guys know he’s capable, plus, he doesn’t like to lose.”
Stire helped CBA win 18 of 21 games with his points, exceptional passing, improved interior defense and rebounding. He averaged 9.7 rebounds per game and had a career-high 19 of them to go with a career-best 32 points in a 54-47 win over Amsterdam.
“He’s a tenacious rebounder. He gets the ball and gets a lot of putback baskets,” said Doemel. “That’s intensity. Mental toughness.”
The Big 10 first-team all-star made it tough on other big men when they had the ball down low.
“He’s always been heady. His lateral movement got better, which made him a better defender,” said Doemel. “In our league he had to play [Elijah] Burns, [Derrick] Thomas and [Darius] Macon. Those guys are hard to handle, and he did a great job on them.”
Nate Kane didn’t lead Bethlehem in scoring. He wasn’t even second among the Eagles, and even so, he received the highest honor from the Suburban Council coaches.
“The coaches respected what he did. That’s why he got the most votes,” Bethlehem coach A.G. Irons said of his senior point guard, the league’s Player of the Year. “He worked hard. He gave people fits.”
Kane did so with his timely baskets and defensive quickness, but even more with his brilliant ball handling and distribution. His imprint was all over each of the 17 wins the SC South Division champion Eagles registered.
“His court vision is very good, and whatever defense we faced, he knew just what to do,” said Irons. “We’d sit down before a game and go over things we expected to see, and during games, I rarely had to say anything. He understands the game like no one I’ve had before.”
While Kane averaged 3.7 assists, getting the ball to John Sica, Connor Morrelli and Myles Bergere in optimal scoring position was only part of his job.
“If teams trapped or pressed, we wanted the ball in his hands,” Irons said of the three-year varsity starter. “He didn’t turn the ball over, and he found guys. He can play the two [shooting guard], but we didn’t have anyone else who could do what he could do. He’s the glue that held us together.”
Kane averaged 11.4 points per game with highs of 21 twice, 18 and 17. He scored those 17 when Bethlehem beat Middletown (72-65 OT) at the CBA Alumni tournament and collected 13 points, six assists and five rebounds in a title-game victory over the Brothers (66-55). Kane was selected the tourney MVP after the Eagles topped the two state-ranked teams.
“He can score. He can hit the three and drive to the basket,” said Irons, who saw Kane average 11.7 points as a junior. “Flat out, he’s a good player.”
Kane led the Eagles with 33 three-point baskets to go with 55 rebounds and 27 steals.
“He’s probably our best guard defender, but we played him off to save his energy and limit his fouls. He’s a very good off-the-ball defender. He’ll lock onto the eyes of the ball handler and pick off a pass just like that.” said Irons. “He’s crafty. He’s that way with rebounding, too. He knows how to find space. He knows what he’s doing.”
The academic standout and volleyball star sustained a broken jaw late in Bethlehem’s 53-40 Class AA first-round win over Catholic Central. Without their savvy floor leader, the Eagles lost in the quarterfinals to Troy, 55-53.
Point guard and off guard. Small forward and power forward. Caleb Stewart found himself in all of those roles at times this season, and the Mekeel Christian Academy senior consistently delivered in leading his team to a 17-game winning streak and a third straight perfect run through the Western Athletic Conference.
“He had always been a shooter. This year, he had to adapt and do more things, and he did a great job for us,” Lions coach Chad Bowman said of the WAC Southern Division co-MVP. “We had him in places that were not normally his position.”
Stewart’s play at point guard helped Mekeel turn its season around after opening losses to Mayfield (45-44) and Mechanicville (35-33).
“We switched him to point guard for the Berne-Knox game, and that’s when we started to get on track,” Bowman said of a 75-70 win. “He got the ball up quickly and got our offense jump started. He’s got good vision to begin with, and being 6-6 helped him pass over people.”
Stewart was listed a 6-2 on last year’s roster.
“He had a growth spurt between his junior and senior year, like his brother Collin,” Bowman said of the three-year starter and four-year varsity team member. “Like Collin, we played Caleb inside more.”
Stewart averaged 8.6 rebounds a game and 20.4 points, using drives and putbacks more than ever before. He scored a career-high 37 in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo win, notched 34 when the Lions beat Hudson Falls in a Class B sectional game (84-45), fired in 32 when they downed Amsterdam (95-80) in the Gloversville tournament semifinals, and netted 30 when they beat Canajoharie for the overall WAC championship (64-41).
“In the past he didn’t go near the paint,” said Bowman. “He was attacking. He was not settling for the jumper.”
Stewart’s aggressiveness led to 160 free throws and 117 makes (73.13 percent). He went 21-for-21 from the line in the Canajoharie win — setting a school single-game record for free throws made — and went 17-for-22 from the stripe in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo victory.
“He had a lot of great games. Berne-Knox was obviously one of them,” said Bowman. “We were 0-2 and needed a win, and he scores 37 for us with a bunch of free throws in the fourth quarter.”
Stewart had a triple-double in the Amsterdam win with 10 rebounds and 12 assists. He nearly had another in a victory over King’s Christian of Ontario (64-42) with 10 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists. He averaged 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals.
“Teams game planned around him,” said Bowman. “He drew a lot of attention. That opened up opportunities for other players, and he was willing to give the ball up.”