It’s been nearly a week since Scotia-Glenville capped one of the best seasons in Section II boys’ basketball history, and Tartans coach Jim Giammattei is still trying to sort it all out, to find just the right words.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. You try to get your team to the pinnacle, to be the very best, and it happens,” said the Scotia-Glenville graduate and varsity coach since 1991. “It’s one thing to be state champs. Then to get that exclamation point, too, to be the best of the public, private, independent and Catholic schools, it’s unreal.”
At times, the Tartans seemed to be that. They won all 27 of their games, 25 of them by 13 points or more with a cast led by Joe Cremo, Alex Sausville, Dom LeMorta, Scott Stopera, Mike Palleschi and sixth man Schuyler Sayles.
“They’ve played with each other forever. It’s kids helping each other, kids staying together. Long before anyone was in the stands, they put hours and hours in,” said Giammattei. “It’s a reflection of that.”
Scotia-Glenville’s relentless work behind the scenes set the stage for all of those defensive stands, unselfish passes and the load of points that left the Tartans one win shy of the Section II record, and had their fans often in amazement.
The last victory came Saturday at the Times Union Center when Scotia-Glenville put together one final run and put away Holy Trinity of Long Island, 68-52, and became just the second Section II team and third Capital Region team to claim a New York State Federation Tournament of Champions title.
The night before, Scotia-Glenville subdued Albany Academy in a Federation semifinal, 70-57, in a game that pitted the state’s top two ranked teams.
“So many things are going through my head,” Sausville, a senior guard, said after the Tartans clinched the Federation banner. “To get this chance is amazing. Not many kids get an opportunity to play here. We did, and we won it. It doesn’t get any better.”
Scotia-Glenville had won Section II championships in 2009, 2012 and 2013, but each of those seasons ended in the regional round.
“That’s why we went 27-0. Mentally, this was a special, special group,” Giammattei said.
Scotia-Glenville began prepping for the season last March at a team shoot-around, the day after a 58-53 regional loss to Syracuse heavyweight Bishop Ludden at Onondaga Community College.
“Once we got back, I knew we’d be working toward that, to get another game with Bishop Ludden. I knew there would be nothing left on the table,” Giammattei said. “We never look past anyone, but our sights were on Bishop Ludden. That game was 365 days in the making.”
Scotia-Glenville jumped on Bishop Ludden in a Class A regional rematch, and behind Sausville’s 28 points, soared to a 72-44 victory. The Tartans followed their first regional title with victories over John Glenn of Long Island, 81-50, and East High of Rochester, 66-44, at New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Cremo was selected the tourney most valuable player after collecting 27 points John Glenn and 23 points against East High. Sausville nailed eight threes against East High to tie the tournament’s all-class record, and led the Tartans with 26 points.
“Once we got by that [the regionals], we were not going to Glens Falls just to say we got there,” said Giammattei. “Our kids had every intention to win it. There was no, ‘It’s nice to be there.’ ”
Scotia-Glenville had won a pair of games at the Glens Falls Civic Center en route to each of its Section II championships. The Tartans beat Amsterdam 71-45, and then Troy in double overtime, 77-75, as a springboard toward history.
“Walking into that setting can be rather daunting. We had been there. It meant a lot,” said Giammattei. “In the game with John Glenn, it took them five, six minutes to get acclimated. At that point, it was 20-2.”
The Tartans ended their two-day stay at the Civic Center the same way they started, using a 21-2 fourth-quarter charge to dispatch East High.
“Once we stepped on the gas, there was no stopping us,” said S-G assistant coach Mark Sausville.
“People talk about our offensive runs,” said Giammattei. “Defense was always the accelerant.”
Scotia-Glenville played fabulous defense all season long in its 3-2 zone.
“This team just moved on a string. Great defensive teams do,” said Giammattei. “One guy moved and the other four looked like they were attached to him. It looked like one big sheet.”
“They were unbelievable in the intangible department,” said Albany Academy coach Brian Fruscio. “They got loose balls. They moved to the right spots. They did all the fundamentals. They were fun to watch.”
Scotia-Glenville was one of two boys’ teams in New York to go undefeated. Class B Federation champ Westhill of Syracuse (27-0) was the other.