Scotia-Glenville limited East High of Rochester to one basket in the final three minutes of the third quarter, and then threw a fourth-quarter shutout until the last few seconds.
That defensive stand was part of a spectacular finish to Sunday’s 66-44 state Class A title-game win.
“When they won the state championship, I stood up and clapped. I was appreciative of well-coached basketball,” said Albany Academy coach Brian Fruscio. “I was impressed with what they did.”
One of the intriguing questions heading into tonight’s New York State Federation Tournament of Champions semifinal is whether Fruscio’s Cadets can crack that Scotia-Glenville 3-2 zone defense enough times to win?
The Tartans have held five of their seven postseason opponents to 45 points or less, the exceptions coming in an 81-50 state semifinal win over John Glenn and in a 77-75 double-overtime triumph against Troy in the Section II final.
“Every good defense takes away a lot of things. We’ll try to find something there,” said Fruscio. “Scotia is patient, makes the extra pass and makes heady plays, and we’ll try to do the same thing.”
Academy (14-4, Association of Independent Schools) generated enough offense to beat the likes of Guilderland, Shenendehowa, Bishop Ludden, Ogdensburg Free Academy, Long Island Lutheran and Green Tech.
Lutheran (20-4, AIS) and Green Tech (19-5) play tonight in a Class AA semifinal at the Times Union Center just before the 8:30 game matching Scotia-Glenville (25-0) and Academy, last year’s Federation winner.
“We’ve prepared for the complete game. They have a multiple array of scorers. They finish, drive, go outside, hit threes,” said Scotia-Glenville coach Jim Giammattei. “We’ve seen every bit of it, but of all the teams we’ve seen, they may do the best job of doing all of it well.”
“They do everything. There’s not a lot of teams in the area like them,” said Tartans junior Scott Stopera. “We played a couple of [AAU] teams in the Bronx like them.”
Matt Knezovic (team-high 14 ppg), John Moutopoulos, Ray Jerome, Teigue Donohoe and 6-foot-9 Marcus Jackson lead the balanced Cadets. Knezovic scored 26 points in a 68-64 win over Ludden, Donohoe had 16 when they topped Green Tech, 73-63, and Jerome had 15 when they edged Lutheran, 53-50.
“We’re going to have to help each other out on defense,” said Tartans junior Joe Cremo, who has played both down low and up top in their zone. “We need to be active and help in the gaps. We need to play like one unit, like we did against East.”
Scotia-Glenville trailed in that game, 39-36, before closing with a 30-5 surge.
“Their guys were getting into gaps. We shut down the gaps in the second half and forced them to take tough contested threes, which was our plan,” said Tartans senior Dom LeMorta. “We changed it from being close to spread out.
“That showed how we can turn it on when we play defense.”
Cremo and Alex Sausville both scored nine points in Scotia-Glenville’s 21-2 fourth-quarter run that included plenty of one-and-dones at the defensive end. Cremo finished with 23 points and Sausville had 26 including eight threes to tie the tournament record.
“It’s an engine that’s running very well,” Giammattei said of his No. 1-ranked team in the state. “You have the transmission with Joe, but nothing works without Scott as our sparkplug, Dom and Alex as the gears and Mike [Palleschi] as the oil. He does all of the dirty work.”
Academy has not played since Feb. 22 when it lost to Lutheran, 79-59. The Cadets beat John Brown the day before, 66-58, behind Jerome’s 18 points.
“How much did the layoff effect Florida State? They had a five-week wait and then they won the national [football] championship. When you have a layoff, it’s what you make of it,” said Fruscio. “We’ve got a lot of talent on our JV and with those guys mixing it up with us the level of our practices has been excellent. We’ve gotten better every day in practice.”
As the lone AIS Class A school, Academy did not have to play its way into the Federation event.