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Liberty Does It Good


Democrat Photo by Frank Rizzo

TO TRAVIS: Travis Emery of Liberty, at left, corrals a rebound between Millbrook’s Cody Clinton (behind Emery) and Anthony Paesano (55) in Sunday’s Class C final. Looking on are Liberty’s Jon Tanous (23) and Chris Winters.

Indians Grab Class C Championship

By Frank Rizzo
WEST POINT — March 7, 2000 -- There was a satisfying symmetry at work in Sunday’s Class C championship game at West Point’s Christl Arena.
Liberty’s Chris Sinceno opened the contest with a 3-point shot, and 30 minutes later essentially clinched it with another trey.
In between the Indians had to struggle to beat defending state Class D champion Millbrook, 47-40, to clinch their first sectional title since 1993.
“I was open,” Sinceno said afterward. “Jon (Tanous) drove, and they collapsed on him and he kicked it out to me. Once it left my hand I knew it was going in.”
Sinceno’s trey gave Liberty a 44-40 lead and seemed to deflate the Blazers.
“That was a great shot, that was the difference,” said Millbrook coach Ryan Peek, still teary-eyed a quarter-hour after the final buzzer. “He misses that shot, and we have a chance to win it.”
The play worked out to the way it had been diagrammed, according to Liberty coach Ed Riente.
“(Chris) is a shooter, he’s done it before,” Riente said.
The win culminated a season in which Liberty has already notched the Orange County League (OCL) National Conference and Division II titles.
The Indians play in the opening round of the state tournament tonight at 6 p.m. at Iona College in New Rochelle. The opponent is Section I champ Pleasantville.
“Winning is a dream come true,” said Sinceno, who watched his older brother Kaseem win the last sectional title seven years before. “We worked so hard for it and it’s a great experience.”
“I definitely thought we had the team to do it,” said senior forward Evan Mullen. “We’ve been practicing hard all year and this is a team that clicked together.”
Millbrook assistant coach Joe Steen passed by Mullen and advised, “Have fun (in the state tournament). It’s a great run.”
Liberty assistant coach Adrien Tyndell contrasted this crown with the last title seven years before, a classic two-point win over James I. O’Neill.
“It’s the same (great feeling), and hopefully we’ll keep going down the same path,” Tyndell said.
The 1993 Indians reached the state semifinals, where they were eliminated by Broadalbin-Perth, 72-66.
A Defensive Struggle
For Liberty, Sunday’s defensive game plan was clear: stop big and agile center Anthony Paesano, and keep quick point guard Mike Blue from penetrating.
On the whole, the Indians were successful.

“(Paesano’s) a class act, a great player,” said Liberty’s 6-7 junior center, Travis Emery. “I knew I had to do everything in my power to stop him. In the first half I don’t think I did it. He’s so strong, and has such incredible moves. In the second half, I did a better job.”
With the help, Emery added, of a teammate or two collapsing back on the Blazer pivot.
The game was close throughout, with Millbrook holding leads of 13-11 after one period and 24-22 at halftime.
There were three ties and four lead changes in the third, with Liberty coming out on top, 38-36.
The scoring pace slowed considerably in the final stanza; Mullen’s free throw at the 4:49 mark was the first point scored in the period.
Chris White’s baseline drive with 2:14 left gave the Blazers their last advantage, 40-39.
Sinceno also went the baseline route at the Liberty end to regain the lead.
After an exchange of misses, Millbrook’s Cody Clinton attempted a 3-pointer, missed, and Tanous snared the rebound. Liberty then called time to set up Sinceno’s shot.
After the game, the Millbrook locker room had a funereal atmosphere. Paesano was still sobbing when he left Christl Arena.
“To go from (Class) D to C and stay close in a sectional final against a great group of kids like Liberty (is an achievement),” Peek said. “I don’t think (Liberty) met a team who kept them off the boards like we did tonight. That’s why the game was close.”
Ed Riente focused less on his personal vindication — two years ago, the Liberty School Board declined to rehire him and he spent a year away from the varsity position he’s held since 1985 — than on the wider implications of the win .
“It makes me feel good that Liberty can compete, that the program is alive and well,” he said. “This is great for the school.”
Sinceno paced Liberty (20–2) with 14 points and three steals. Tanous shot 5-for-11 and finished with 12. Mullen scored 11, making 5/13 from the floor.
Emery, his hands full with Paesano, finished with two, but had 10 rebounds and four blocked shot to make his presence felt in the paint.
Paesano led all scorers with 15.

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