With a double-double and then another, Mike Palleschi turned in the best two-game stretch of his varsity basketball career last week. The junior’s efforts helped Scotia-Glenville get back to the Section II Class A championship game, and then win it.
“People after the Amsterdam and Troy games were like, ‘Where the hell did he come from?’ ” said Tartans coach Jim Giammattei.
Palleschi has been there all season long, but the playoffs have served as his coming-out party as a two-way threat on the court. The 6-foot-5 first-year starter not only scored 15 points and took down 11 rebounds in a 71-45 semifinal win over Amsterdam, he also blocked seven shots.
“It’s been an adventure with Mike. He had a lot of tough times when he was younger, even catching the ball,” said Scotia-Glenville senior Alex Sausville. “He’s doing stuff now you couldn’t have imagined, and it’s all because of him. He’s worked extremely hard.”
Palleschi had the Glens Falls Civic Center crowd oohing and aahing when he ran to the lane and lept high for a third-quarter tip-in against Troy in the sectional final. That was one of his 11 rebounds to go with 12 points in a game that ended with the Tartans on top in double overtime, 77-75.
“Confidence is definitely a big part of it. My teammates and coaches got it in my head that I can do it. Everyone has been supportive,” said Palleschi. “You do it a few times, and it’s, ‘Yeah, I can.’ ”
Palleschi had only brief opportunities to shine as a sophomore, when he served as Scotia-Glenville’s sixth man. He scored in double digits twice in 23 games, and has done so 10 times in 22 games this season, with the 15 against Amsterdam matching his season high.
“In the second half, he’s been a whole different player for us,” said Scotia-Glenville junior Joe Cremo. “When Mike is playing at a high level, we’re a different team.”
Palleschi had the difficult task of stepping in for Andrew Tabbert, who was second behind Cremo in scoring and a defensive sparkplug on last season’s team that reached the state quarterfinal round.
“With Tabs gone, there was a spot to fill,” said Palleschi. “I had to show I could do it. Once I got out there and started to get used to the minutes, I started to get more comfortable.”
And as the games went on, he got better, not only as a scoring option, but as a passer, rebounder and defender down low in the Tartans’ 3-2 zone.
When Scotia-Glenville beat Gloversville, 70-47, to clinch the Foothills Council championship, Palleschi totaled 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. And he did it on a sprained ankle.
“He’s done more than answer the call, fill Tabbert’s shoes. Not easy,” said Giammattei. “All of our guys have improved, but without question, he gets most improved.”
Giammattei believes even bigger things are in Palleschi’s future.
“Look at the growth from last year to now. It’s pretty impressive,” he said. “Mike is a young junior, and his ceiling is tremendous. He has an opportunity to be a very good college player. He’ll put in the work.”
Palleschi’s work rate paid off in a big way when he was 6-for-9 shooting from the field in the Amsterdam game and 6-for-8 in the showdown with Troy.
“Joe gets a triple-double. Scott [Stopera] makes the free throws in the end. Dom [LeMorta] has four threes. Alex was being Alex. Mike was our unsung guy,” Giammattei said of the Troy game. “Every time we needed a tip-in or a rebound, he was there. He was stealth-like. They didn’t account for him, and he did so many things. He was so active.”
Palleschi blocked two shots in the Troy game and rejected five more while altering several other shots in Wednesday’s 70-41 regional win over Peru. He also snared eight rebounds, had two steals and added four points to help the Tartans (22-0) gain a rematch with Bishop Ludden (Section III, 20-2) Saturday night at 6 at Hudson Valley Community College.
Bishop Ludden beat Scotia-Glenville in last year’s state quarterfinal round, 58-53, and another tight game is expected.
“We played close games in the offseason and won, but to do it in a sectional final, that was big for us,” said Palleschi. “We did it, and we believe can do it again.”