The large crowd that gathered at the Pat Riley Sports Center Friday night to see state-ranked Scotia-Glenville and Newburgh Free Academy go at it fell silent when Tartans star Joe Cremo crumbled near mid-court late in the first half.
The Daily Gazette All-Area performer had just triggered a 13-0 run to help Scotia-Glenville open up a double-digit lead. Moments later, he was clutching his left ankle.
“At the half, I got it together,” the junior forward said after the Tartans dealt the Goldbacks their first defeat, 79-65. “I knew my teammates needed me, and I wanted to be out there.”
Cremo scored 14 of his career-high 33 points in the second half, and Alex Sausville had a productive homecoming with a career-best 24 as the Tartans prevailed in their first appearance at Schenectady’s Arthur Hilliard Memorial Basketball Tournament.
Cremo sank a three-point basket in a 9-2 run to start the third quarter, and converted a three-point play in a 9-0 spurt early in the fourth that gave Scotia-Glenville it’s largest lead at 72-55.
“Joe is a big-time player. The bigger the game, the bigger he plays,” Scotia-Glenville coach Jim Giammattei said after his team tri-captain pulled down 10 rebounds, totaled five steals and went 9-for-10 from the line. “A sprained ankle isn’t enough to keep him off the court. If it’s broken, it’s a different story.”
Schenectady added another chapter to its tale of Hilliard success with an 81-78 victory over Columbia in the second game. The Patriots overcame Jahlil Nails’ school-record 44-point outburst to prevail in the opening round for the 19th time in 20 games going back to 1990. No tournament was held in 1993, 2009, 2010 and last year.
“To have us stay together in the end, it was a great thing to see,” Schenectady coach Joe Loudis said after his team won back-to-back games for the first time this season. “We didn’t fumble it away. We persevered, and we made big shots that we hadn’t made before.”
Schenectady (4-3) will go after its first Hilliard title since 2007 tonight at 7:30 against a Scotia-Glenville (6-0) team that is ranked No. 3 in the state at the Class A level. Newburgh Free Academy (4-1) came in with a No. 12 state Class AA rank.
“We’ve got to do everything right. There’s no room for error,” Loudis said. “We cannot come out flat. We’ve got to get some steals and get in transition. We’ve got to hold them to one and done. We’ve got to make shots.”
Scotia-Glenville made them in bunches, and put the breaks on NFA’s explosive offense which led to key runs in each of the last three quarters. The Tartans went on a 13-0 run in the second quarter to overcome a 28-25 deficit, with Cremo delivering on two layups and sinking a pair from the line.
“I knew we’d be nervous to start, but I also knew if we stuck to coach’s plan, we’d have a chance to come through,” said Cremo. “We had to take care of the ball, limit their transition and limit their second-chance points.”
Mike Palleschi grabbed seven rebounds to go with eight points before fouling out with 6:03 left and the Tartans leading, 63-55. Instead of faltering without their tallest starter, the Tartans responded with a 9-0 run that Sausville began with a floater. Sausville later added a foul shot and Dom LeMorta capped the run with a three-pointer.
“They were an excellent team,” said Sausville, a senior guard. “For us to weather the storm and get this win, it’s great for us. We had our moments here and there, and we regrouped when we had to.”
Sausville had grown up at the Pat Riley Sports Center, where his father, Mark, led the Schenectady varsity for 12 seasons before departing in 2010. The younger Sausville admitted he was nervous before his first game there.
“If I didn’t get out of it quick, it would have been a problem,” he said.
Sausville’s 15 second-half points included a runner and two foul shots down the stretch, after the Goldbacks had cut their 17-point deficit to eight.
“I’m happy for Alex,” said Giammattei. “It was his homecoming, and I know this game meant a lot to him.”
Ja’Kwan Jones had 21 points and eight rebounds for NFA, and Donovan Fields had 14 points and nine assists, but only one in the second half. Scott Stopera had eight assists for the Tartans.
Nine for Nails
Nails’ 44-point performance included a school record-tying nine three-point baskets. The junior guard dropped in his final three with 3:05 left to give Columbia a 71-68 advantage, and Pats’ eighth-grader Tobias Holmes answered with one of his own. Shani Moses then pushed Schenectady ahead with two from the line, and a layup by Keishaun Wheeling extended the Pats’ lead to 79-74 with 56 seconds to go.
“He [Nails] shot the light out. He’s a tough player,” said Loudis. “He was a focus for our defense and obviously the message didn’t get across. We were lackidaisical on him, but in the end, we still won, and for our program, we needed a win.”
Holmes had 18 points and seven assists, and Wheelings had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Moses added 13 points and Keenan Chandler matched his season high with 11 including a three in the Pats’ late 11-3 run.
“Our guys showed a lot of fight tonight,” said Loudis.
“They shot well,” Columbia coach Jim Obermayer said of the Patriots. “When they needed a big basket, they got it.”
Nails scored 27 second-half points with six threes during that stretch. He also went 13-for-16 from the line.
NEWBURGH FREE ACADEMY 65
NEWBURGH FREE ACADEMY
Fields 5-2-14, Nugent 4-2-12, Dubose 0-1-1, Williams 2-0-4, Mitchell 3-0-7, Borden 2-1-6, Jones 9-3-21. Totals: 25-9-65.
LeMorta 3-0-8, Sausville 7-8-24, Almond 0-3-3, Cremo 11-9-33, Palleschi 4-0-8, Stopera 1-0-3. Totals: 26-20-79.
NFA 18 17 16 14 — 65
SG 15 26 22 16 — 79
Three-point goals: Fields 2, Nugent 2, Mitchell, Borden, LeMorta 2, Sausville 2, Cremo 2, Stopera.
SCHENECTADY 81, COLUMBIA 78
Nails 11-13-44, Ciccarone 0-2-2, Lott 1-2-4, Luther 3-0-7, Hart 2-1-5, J. Palmer 1-2-5, Scott 1-0-2, B. Palmer 1-0-3, Janowski 3-2-8. Totals: 23-22-78.
Chandler 4-2-11, Hamlin 1-0-2, Holmes 6-3-18, Langston 3-1-7, Moses 5-2-13, Spottswood 2-2-6, Symes 2-0-4, Wheelings 6-5-17, Williams 1-0-3. Totals: 30-15-81.
Columbia 14 19 17 28 — 78
Schenectady 16 16 22 27 — 81
Three-point goals: Nails 9, Luther, J. Palmer, B. Palmer, Chandler, Holmes 3, Moses, Williams.