The day after Scotia-Glenville saw its 53-game basketball win streak snapped at the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions, Joe Cremo was in the gym, working on his game.
“His will to win is unparalled for a high school kid,” Tartans coach Jim Giammattei said of his 6-foot-4 senior swingman. “What you also have to look at is his will to prepare to win. It’s an everyday thing with him.”
Though Cremo repeated as the Foothills Council, Section II tournament and New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four most valuable player, he was a different athlete this season. Different, as in so much better.
With an improved physique, more consistent outside jumper and new moves inside, the three-time Daily Gazette All-Area first-team star broke his own school scoring record with 765 points, topping the 672 he piled up as a junior in the same number of games.
His exploits included a career-best 39 points in a 62-54 regional win against Christian Brothers Academy when he sank all 14 of his fourth-quarter foul shots, and 34 points in a 46-42 state semifinal win against Spring Valley, when he netted 24 straight and 29 of the Tartans’ final 32.
Cremo followed that up with a 24-point, 11-rebound performance when Scotia-Glenville beat Greece Athena, 54-49, for its second straight NYSPHSAA title.
“Everyone has a go-to move,” said Giammattei. “He’s got a secondary go-to move, and a third one. He’s got great footwork. He’s got the spin, the step back, the power move.”
Cremo generated 30 points or more 12 times with his work in the lane, his three-pointers and foul shots. The University at Albany-bound senior’s 28.3 scoring average included 51 three-pointers and 194 free throws on 229 attempts.
He shot 65.8 percent from the field, up from his 64.8 mark as an 11th-grader when he had five games of 30 points or more.
“I don’t think there’s been a more efficient offensive player in Section II history. He’s not a volume shooter. He averaged about 16 shots per night, and on an off night, he makes eight of them,” said Giammattei.
Cremo climbed to No. 7 on the all-time Section II scoring list with his 2,159 points. He reached 2,000 the day S-G beat Troy for the area championship, 54-43, when he also collected 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals.
“Think about how many quarters he had to sit out in his career? Probably 60 quarters,” said Giammattei. “Immagine how many points he could have scored had we kept him in there.”
Cremo averaged 11.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.2 steals as part of his superb senior season. He added a second Arthur Hilliard Memorial Tournament MVP award to his trophy case which includes Federation MVP and state sportswriter association player of the year awards from last season.
“He’s the kind of guy who believes the stats don’t mean anything without the winning,” said Giammattei, whose Tartans went 92-7 and won four sectional crowns with Cremo in the lineup. “That’s his calling card. Its about winning.”
Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa)
Coach Tony Dzikas has gotten a lot of phone calls since Huerter had back-to-back 25-point games when Shenendehowa beat Mount Vernon and Brentwood to claim the NYSPHSAA Class AA championship.
“He has a great basketball IQ, intelligence on the court. That’s what the college coaches have talked about more than his shooting,” said Dzikas. “He does a lot of things that don’t show up in the stats. They like his court vision, how he sets a lot of stuff up, how he makes everyone around him better.”
With his bag full of tangibles and intangibles, Huerter was an essential cog as the Plainsmen reached a level not seen in nearly three decades. The 6-5 junior point guard was selected the state final four most valuable player after earning the same award for his contributions in the Section II tournament and in Shenendehowa’s run through the Suburban Council.
“It’s hard to bring the ball up, make passes and score,” said Dzikas. “He did a lot for us.”
The Brentwood game, which Shen won, 76-63, for its first state title since 1987, was a perfect example. Huerter had two steals and a block at the defensive end, was one below his average with five assists, one above his average with eight rebounds, and his 25 points included a 12-for-13 free throw effort.
In a 60-52 semifinal win against Mount Vernon, Huerter snared 10 rebounds, collected three steals as the top middle man in Shen’s 3-2 zone and blocked three shots, and sank five three-point baskets.
“His play at the state tournament raised his stock,” said Dzikas, who mentioned Michigan as a newcomer among the colleges who have expressed interest in the 16-year-old. “That’s because he was doing it against the best teams in the state. He was the best player on the court.”
Huerter averaged 18.6 points in seven playoff games and 17.5 overall for the 25-1 Plainsmen. The three-year varsity performer scored 20 points in a 47-42 Section II title-game win over Guilderland including a monster one-handed dunk.
“You’ll see more of that in the future,” said Dzikas. “He’s gotten better at working through traffic, and he’ll get even better as he gets physically stronger.”
Huerter sank 75 three-point baskets, six of them coming when he generated a season-high 35 points in an 81-61 win against Columbia. That was among his 12 games with 20 or more.
“When teams tried to prevent him from scoring, he found other guys,” said Dzikas. “He puts the ball where it should be, and he does it very well when he’s on the run. He makes other guys look good.”
ANTHONY MACK (Catholic Central)
Mack, a junior, took his game to a higher level this season. Literally.
“It’s something we worked on. It’s not a set shot. It’s a full form jump shot,” said Chuck Mack, Anthony’s dad and the Crusaders head coach. “When he’s shooting over 6-7 and 6-8 at the next level, and hopefully, the next level after that, he’ll have to have that.”
Mack’s improved elevation, and range, made the prolific scorer even more potent. The 6-5 guard knocked down 63 three-point baskets, 21 more than last season, as part of his school-record 548 points.
Eight of those threes — another school record — came in a 73-52 win at Schenectady, a night in which the two-time Gazette All-Area first-teammer netted 42 points.
“It was one of the best individual games I’ve observed in this area in a long time,” said Schenectady coach Eric Loudis. “In the first quarter, he missed a few shots, but after that, I don’t recall him missing again. He had five threes from 32 feet out. He tore up our man. He tore up our zone. On top of that, he rebounded and passed.”
Those are just a few of the other aspects of Mack’s game that have gotten better over the years.
“He has a passion. He realized at a young age that this is something he wanted to do, and he’s worked at it. Some guys will go three months and then go tobogganing. It’s 12 months with him,” said coach Mack. “He started running hills with weights on when he was nine years old.”
By the age of 13, as an eighth-grader, Mack was starting at forward for the Crusaders’ varsity.
“You don’t see 13-year-olds playing power forward in Class AA ball,” said his father. “At that time, we needed him there, and he averaged 12.5 points going against guys who were 17, 18 years old.”
Mack averaged 26.1 points this season to go with 8.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.6 steals for the Section II Class AA semifinalists.
“The game against Long Island Lutheran [a 79-60 losss] sticks in my mind,” said Chuck Mack. “They started 6-9, 6-8 and 6-7 and had a 6-10 kid come off the bench. We take a four-hour car ride, walk in the gym, and he goes for 29 [points], nine [rebounds] and six [assists].”
The just-turned 17-year-old became the first Catholic Central player to reach 40 points twice in the same season, with a career-high 43 coming in an 86-82 overtime loss against Christian Brothers Academy. Mack sank six threes in that game, and had six threes and 35 points in a 67-45 win at LaSalle. Those performances were part of his school-record 1,556 points.
“He is a two guard, but at times he played every position for us, and defended every position,” said Chuck Mack.
The Gazette first-team repeater is currently competing with New York City’s New Heights under-19 team on the Under Armour Elite National Tour, and will attend prep school in the fall.
Andrew Platek (Guilderland)
Solid as a freshman and real good as a sophomore, Platek rose to star status this season while leading Guilderland to a repeat Suburban Council South Division title and return trip to the Section II Class AA championship game.
“We knew he was going to come back a better player, but he surprised a lot of people how much better he got,” coach Mike Parks said of Guilderland’s only returning starter. “It was almost shocking. He was so much better, and that’s a tribute to him. He really dedicated himself.”
Though Platek again earned a spot on the Suburban Council all-star first team, the 6-4 swingman displayed increased range on his jumper, more quicks at the defensive end and a stronger desire to mix it up on the boards. He ended up as the Dutchmen’s second-leading rebounder with almost six a game while boosting his scoring average from 15.8 to 23.6 points per outing.
“His range was better for sure, but also his consistency,” said Parks, who saw Platek lead Section II with a school-record 91 three-point baskets. “He was very accurate.”
Platek went 10-for-10 from the field with six threes in an 84-49 win against Colonie when he totaled 27 points.
Ten times, Platek sank five three-pointers or more, with his season-high of eight coming in a 33-point effort in a 71-64 win against Averill Park. That’s the night he reached 1,000 career points, and he went on to finish the season with 1,109 for the No. 2 mark on the all-time Guilderland record list.
Platek set the Guilderland one-game three-point mark with nine against Averill Park as a sophomore in a 73-66 win.
“I don’t think people realize what kind of athlete he is,” Parks said of the two-time Section II Class AA tourney all-star. “He’s fast, quick. He jumps well. He’s not your typical stand-still shooter.”
Platek was aggressive in attacking gaps and he drew plenty of fouls, one of the reasons he ended up with 109 free throw attempts. He made 93 of them, going 11-for-12 from the stripe when he tied the Guilderland record with 41 points in a 74-62 win against Shaker.
Platek 15 times generated 20 points or more’s as part of his single-season school-record 542 points.
“I talked to several coaches who watched film from last year, and they all agreed it was a totally different kid out there,” said Parks.
Platek will be moving from Guilderland for Northfield Mount Hermon Prep in Massachusetts to continue his academic and athletic career.
Scott Stopera (Scotia-Glenville)
Of all the statistics Stopera accumulated in his three varsity seasons at Scotia-Glenville, one stands above the rest: Seventy five wins, two losses.
“It doesn’t happen without Scotty,” Giammattei said of the repeat Foothills Council first-team all-star. “You can’t play without a point guard.”
Stopera’s role was to protect and distribute the ball, and he did that with greater efficiency in each season, and increased his offensive output, as well. The 5-10 senior scored in double digits 11 times this season, including a 20-point performance when the Tartans beat Queensbury for the overall Foothills title, 79-43.
Stopera sank six threes that night — his second game with that many — and finished with 56 of them to double his junior output.
“Every part of his game got a little better,” said Giammattei. “He worked incredibly hard.”
Stopera set a school record with 207 assists as a junior and topped that with 213 this season, feeding in the open court and as the Tartans’ in-bound guy under the basket.
“Anyone can give the ball to someone,” said Giammattei. “He gave the ball to the right people at the right time. He made our other guys look good. He made other people better. That’s the ultimate compliment. That’s what a point guard is supposed to do.”
Stopera served as the glue to the Tartans’ offense with his ability to secure the ball. He turned it over only 61 times this season in their 27 games.
“In some of our games he went up against great pressure,” said Giammattei. “He handled it. He was a cool customer.”
Stopera answered the pressure in a different way in last season’s Section II title game, when he sank three foul shots with 5.3 seconds left in a 77-75 double overtime win against Troy. Another one of his shining offensive efforts came last month in the NYSPHSAA title game, and helped the Tartans extend their win streak to 53, when he hit three threes in the victory over Greece Athena.
Stopera boosted his scoring average from 5.6 points to 8.9 to go with three steals and three rebounds per game.
Player, school, grade, average
Joe Cremo, Scotia, 12, 28.3
Anthony Mack, CCHS, 11, 26.1
Andrew Platek, Guilderland, 11, 23.6
Kevin Huerter, Shen, 11, 17.5
Scott Stopera, Scotia, 12, 8.9
Tom Huerter, Shen, 12, 15.5
John Sica, Bethlehem, 12, 18.2
Jahlil Nails, Columbia, 12, 20.7
Zac O’Dell, Schalmont, 11, 18.5
Zach Radz, Troy, 12, 18.7
Hameir Wright, Albany Acad., 10, 14.9
Mike Palleschi, Scotia, 12, 11.2
Brandon Fischer, Shen, 12, 11.1
Dyaire Holt, Troy, 11, 18.6
Tobias Holmes, Schenectady, 9, 14.7
Suburban Council: Myles Joyce (Averill Park), Petar Bebic (Shenendehowa), Ralph Simeone, Andrew Sischo (Guilderland), Ryan Carter (Mohonasen), Seamus McHugh (Shaker), Chris Byno (Saratoga Springs).
Foothills Council: Kory Bergh (Amsterdam), Ryan Dingman (Broadalbin-Perth), Joe Girard (Glens Falls), Ricky Mitchell (Gloversville), Austin Riska (Johnstown), Keeghan O’Leary (Queensbury), Dante Langley (Schuylerville), Diamond Corker, Joe Almond (Scotia).
Colonial Council: Keenan Loder (C-R), Shelton Alston (Cohoes), David Warnken (RCS), Nick Bird (Schalmont), Shane Parry (Voorheesville), Ty’Jon Gilmore (Watervliet).
Western Athletic Conference: Zack Hilton, Justin Houck (BKW), Josh Gonzalez (Canajoharie), Kevin Lenehan (Duanesburg), Thor White (Galway), Mike Mann, Scott Voelker (Mekeel), Tanner Van Aller (Middleburgh), Danny Reidell (Northville), Dylan Klock (OESJ), Evan Pescetti (SpaCC), Mitch Barton (Schoharie).
Independent/others: Rory Flaherty (Albany Academy), Marcus Friend (Bishop Maginn), Raiquis Harris (CCHS), Sloan Seymour, Mike Wynn (CBA), Anquan McLean (Green Tech), Brendan Maloney (Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons), Todd Spottswood (Schenectady), Maurice Watson (Troy), Robert Shippee (Corinth), Jonny Dariano (Loudonville Chritian), Evan Dunn (Mechanicville), Mitchel Wayand (Stillwater), Josh Orton (Waterford-Halfmoon).