GLOVERSVILLE — You can't mention the last decade of Foothills Council boys' basketball without a reference somewhere to Joe Cremo of Scotia-Glenville or Joseph Girard III of Glens Falls.
They were the guys — Cremo first, then Girard III — who scored loads of points, did all of the little things, too, and led their teams to one championship after another in a string of successful campaigns.
"Cremo was one of my role models," said Gloversville senior Dante Bouchard, who competed the last three winters against Girard III. "I remember watching him growing up. I wanted to be like him."
This season is Bouchard's opportunity to do so.
With Girard III now at Syracuse, Section II will have a new scoring leader — and Gloversville's four-year starting guard will certainly be in that chase with a group that includes Shane O'Dell of Schalmont, Jackson Atty of Fonda-Fultonville and Jon Kempf of Hoosick Falls. Bouchard's team is also projected to contend for league and Section II titles that eluded Gloversville during the Joe and Joe era.
"We went 20-3 last year," Gloversville coach Aric Kucel said. "We lost to a Troy team that got to the state final four, and we lost twice to the federation champs [Glens Falls]. The core pieces are back with Dante, Joe [Rowback] and Anderson [Jones]. We have high expectations."
"Freshman year, we lost a sectional game here," Bouchard recalled. "Sophomore year, the goal was to get to the Glens Falls Civic Center and we did, and we were satisfied. Junior year, the next goal was to win the league and the [Class A] championship, and we came up short on both."
Bouchard scored 31 points and was named to the Section II Class A all-tournament team after Gloversville lost to Troy 69-55 in last season's title game and was denied its first area flag since 1989.
"That was a tough Troy team, and when we lost, we were hurt," Bouchard said. "Troy was playing a song after the game, "Fight Night" [by Migos], and every time we hear it now, we'll turn it off. We're not going to play it until we win it."
Bouchard, who averaged 25.8 points last season and 27.2 as a sophomore, will again anchor Gloversville's pursuit.
"He gets a little extra attention, and he likes that," Kucel said. "There's the other teams focusing on him and hostile environments. He thrives off the crowds."
The newest face of Foothills Council boys' basketball had his game face on Monday.
Each shot was taken with a focused aim. Each pass was precise. He sprinted hard, and then did again. That it was an afternoon practice didn't matter at all to the 18-year-old who is getting looks from numerous Division I and II college coaches, and offered another example why that's the case Tuesday night when he scored 30 points against Amsterdam as Gloversville improved its record to 3-0 on the season.
"He is the ultimate competitor," Kucel said. "When he got his 1,000th point last year against Glens Falls, you wouldn't have known. He was upset because we lost the game."
"I've always been a competitor," said Bouchard, who played on Gloversville's fourth-grade youth team when he was in second grade. "I get mad if I lose in gym class."
The gym has, for the longest time, been a home away from home.
"Hardest working kid I ever coached," Kucel said. "I missed a lot of dinners rebounding for him."
Bouchard has been a 3-point threat and a defensive go-getter since he joined the Gloversville varsity. Over time, he's rounded out his offensive game to become a more complete playmaker.
"I just want to do whatever I can to win," the 6-foot Bouchard said. "Scoring is a role I've had, but I will do a lot of everything if it helps the team."
Payton Graber of Schalmont is set to join a select group of Section II basketball players. Only a sophomore, she is 135 points shy of reaching 1,000 in her varsity career.
"It's not often that it happens," Graber said after scoring 15 points in Tuesday's 56-33 Colonial Council win at Mohonasen. "I definitely want it to be at a home game."
Graber has climbed Schalmont's scoring chart while at the same time filling the Sabres' point guard role. Before Tuesday, the 5-foot-7 10th-grader had outings with 16, 24 and 27 points.
"She has such a big basketball IQ," Schalmont coach Jeff Van Hoesen said his floor general, whose dad Jason Graber was a star player at Schalmont and at the University at Albany. "She understands when to take her shots, and she understands when the best play is to pass it off."
"It depends on the game," Payton Graber said. "Sometimes it's a scoring game. Sometimes I create more for my teammates."
Graber has been a starter since she joined the Schalmont varsity as a seventh-grader.
"She came out to try out for the JV," Van Hoesen said. "We combined our teams for our tryouts, and Payton as a 4-foot-11 seventh-grader dominated our tryouts. I called her dad and said we've got to have her [for the varsity]."
Graber scored a career-high 40 points as a freshman in a win against Voorheesville and was later selected a Colonial Council first-team all-star.
"Scoring, distributing, defensively — she is a good all-around player," Van Hoesen said.
Cambridge's Sophie Phillips, another star sophomore, is one point shy of 1,000 after netting 26 in a win over Tamarac Tuesday.
Last season's 1,000-point sophomore scorers included Valencia Fontenelle-Posson of Guilderland and Molly Brophy of Greenwich.
Career points scored by Saratoga Springs girls' senior Dolly Cairns — a program record — after the guard delivered 31 in a 67-51 Suburban Council win over Shaker Tuesday. The Rhode Island commit and two-time Daily Gazette All-Area first-team selection moved past 1994 graduate Jenn Pennell (1,518) on the Blue Streaks all-time scoring list in a game in which the senior scored 29 of her 31 points after the first quarter.
Points accumulated by Schalmont boys' senior Shane O'Dell in his teams' 74-43 win over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake at the Western Athletic Conference Boys Varsity Basketball Coaches vs. Cancer Top-Off Classic on Sunday. The two-time Daily Gazette All-Area first-team selection scored a career-high 43 points during his sophomore year in a sectional win against Hudson and twice netted 38 as a junior.
Number of Queensbury girls who have reached 1,000 career points after Hope Sullivan joined the list with a fourth-quarter free throw (the senior guard's 11th and final point) in a 58-35 Foothills Council win Monday at Hudson Falls. Queensbury's last 1,000-point scorer before Sullivan was Heather Fiore in the 1992-93 season.
Wins in as many days for defending Section II Class AA girls' champion Shenendehowa, which began Suburban Council play Friday by beating Troy (79-36) and then topped non-league opponents Cicero-North Syracuse (80-46) and Jamesville-DeWitt (74-45) over the weekend. Junior Meghan Huerter delivered 28 points against J-D and 23 against C-NS, and junior Rylee Carpenter led four double-digit scorers with 13 against Troy.
Wins for first-year Niskayuna boys' basketball coach Mike Grasso after his Silver Warriors topped Ballston Spa 78-51 in a Suburban Council game Tuesday. Seniors Ethan and Sean St. Lucia paced Niskayuna with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Grasso was a multi-sport standout at Bishop Maginn where his dad, the late Joe Grasso, was a longtime, and successful, football coach.