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Democrat Photos by Ted Waddell

Clockwise from upper left: Tim Mills of Livingston Manor and Felipe Lopez-Mejia of the Family School tangle; Durk Pearston of Tri-Valley; Jason Mizrahi of Tri-Valley; and Mike Stephenson of Tri-Valley.

WSL Coaches Pick
Second Team All-Stars

By Frank Rizzo
April 11, 2000 -- Western Sullivan League (WSL) boys’ basketball coaches picked the following players to the all-star squad:

Craig Vandermark Second Team • Senior
Vandermark scored in double figures just once in the 14 WSL games he appeared in, rarely figuring among his team’s top scorers. And yet, according to Eldred coach Charlie Donnelly, “without him I don’t think we would have made sectionals [the past three years.]”
Donnelly related that Vandermark, a three-year starter, began at the four (power forward) spot as a soph, “and has played every position on our team. Without his flexibility we could not have been successful. There’s nothing he won’t do. Last year, he even played center at times — he’s five-ten, five-eleven — and played it well.
“This year,” Donnelly added, “he played point guard without any experience, and we needed [him there].”
“Craig’s quite athletic, has the drive and wants to win — and he’s a good student. You want players like that,” Donnelly summed up.

Felipe Lopez-Mejia Second Team • Senior
The Falcons may not have had a good year (3–11 WSL), but it wasn’t the fault of Lopez-Mejia, who enjoyed a solid season.
The second-year starting point guard led his team with 12.5 points, six assists, and four steals per game.
“I think the fellow coaches were impressed with Felipe’s ballhandling and leadership skills on the floor,” said Family School coach Bill Musgrove.
Musgrove cited a February 1 close loss to Tri-Valley as Lopez’s highlight game. He scored 20 points, 18 after the break, and sank three 3-pointers as the Falcons lost 50-41.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Lopez eventually made his way to the private school near Hancock.
“He learned to take better care of the basketball and matured as a floor general,” Musgrove praised, and added, “On the basketball court he works his heart out, and off the court he’s a great kid, one of my favorites. He’s gentle and kind, fun to be around, and I’ll miss him.”

Chris Rodriguez First Team • Senior
“We were a team of no stars, but if we had one Chris was it,” Jeff-Youngsville coach Rick Ellison said of Rodriguez. “He was the player everybody looked up to. He emerged as the team leader — in the off season, he called everyone else to get together and play.”
Rodriguez has been on varsity three years, but he did not start — and shine — until his senior year, leading the team with just over 13 ppg.
“It was a real joy seeing Chris working hard and progressing,” said Ellison. “He put his heart and soul into it. I’m real proud of and happy for him.”
Two games stood out in Ellison’s mind: Rodriguez scored 14 first-quarter points in a league-opening 83-44 rout of Manor (en route to a season-high 24). A week later he put on a dominating third quarter to help the Trojans rout Narrowsburg — at the Indians’ home court, no less — 75-55. (He finished with 20 in that game.)
Rodriguez hopes to attend and play basketball at Ulster County CC, joining ex-teammate Julio Ortiz. Tri-Valley’s Arthur Felder is also reportedly slated to go to the neighboring community college.

Tim Mills Second Team • Senior

The 6-foot-5 pivot, a three-year starter, came into his own this year, averaging 21 points and 17 rebounds in WSL games and leading the Wildcats to their most successful season in years (4–10 WSL).
The game of his life came on January 19, when he scored a school-record 44 points and grabbed 29 rebounds in a 99-82 win over Roscoe. After that, noted first-year Manor coach Chris Hubert, Mills became a marked man.
“They started double-teaming him and we had trouble getting the ball into him. So he started getting more rebounds and more opportunities to shoot the ball,” Hubert said.
“We planned our offense around Tim and Ryan Carlson, and they worked well together. You also have to give the team credit for getting the ball to him,” Hubert noted.
Mills averaged about 30 minutes per game (“I couldn’t afford to take him out,” said Hubert) and, especially after the big game against Roscoe, “He started gaining confidence in his skills. When he shot the ball, he had confidence it was going in.”

Bruce Nober First Team • Junior
The scoring threat in the WSL, Nober netted 376 points in his 14 league games to average 26.9 ppg. Overall, he scored 526 points for a 23.9 per game clip. At the free throw line, Nober sank 136/165 for an eye-raising 83 percent mark.
Playing either the two (shooting guard) or three (small forward) spots, Nober “had the ability to score,” Narrowsburg coach Cliff Kelly said. “In terms of improvement, this year he was a little stronger, smarter, and played better defense.”
Kelly praised the role of Roy Jay, whose picks and positional play helped free Nober for one of his deadly outside shots — or drives to the hoop. Nober, Kelly pointed out, will become even more of a force when he raises his ballhandling skills.
“He will be able to create more opportunities for himself — and for his teammates,” Kelly said.
Shawn Esselman Second Team • Senior
“The smallest center in the league,” according to Kelly, the 5-foot-10 Esselman “was a powerhouse. He had defensive and rebounding ability, and could box out. When he wasn’t on the floor we were a lot weaker as far as shooting — with him in there we could shoot with more confidence.”
In his 20 games this past season the two-year starter averaged about 12 rebounds per game and in the WSL he scored 13.0 ppg. Esselman was a first team all-star last year.
“Shawn had a great first step to the hoop. He was a slasher type,” Kelly noted, adding that, “he wasn’t a huge scorer but a go-to guy and played very unselfishly.”
Kelly said that Orange County CC has expressed an interest in Esselman and “I think he can fit into their program.”
Esselman’s high game this year was 28 points against Delaware Valley on February 22.

Mitchell Lake First Team • Senior
The value of Lake was, according to Roscoe coach Fred Ahart, “Mitch’s well-rounded play, his all-around ability. He can [score], handle the ball and plays good defense.”
Equally comfortable bringing the ball up or mixing it up inside, Lake averaged 20.2 points and 12.2 rebounds and three assists per game. In addition, he shot 76 percent from the free throw line, a good number for a high school cager.
Lake, a two-year starter, played center, forward, and swingman for the Blue Devils, and at whatever position “had an outstanding year,” according to Ahart.
Perhaps most impressive was how Lake came back from a mid-season severe injury (spraining an ankle in a snowmobile accident). At first, it was thought his senior season had come to a premature end.
“To his credit, he wanted to come back and worked at [getting back] and came back strong,” Ahart commented.
In his post-injury debut, Lake scored 22 points against Jeff-Youngsville, then added a 31-point, nine-rebound effort in a 75-70 win over Narrowsburg a week later.

Mike Stephenson First Team • Senior
Whether he played the two (shooting guard) or four (power forward) positions, Stephenson showed the kind of versatility and excellence in the little things which led to his being named team MVP two years in a row.
“We could leave him in regardless of the score,” said Tri-Valley coach Jason Semo. “Mike was someone who could control the tempo of the game with his play.”
Stephenson averaged 14 ppg, second on the team, and led the Bears with 10 rebounds and four steals per game overall. He tied a team record of 18 rebounds in one game.
According to Semo, Stephenson’s 16 points in the first half of the January 14 win over Delaware Valley (68-42) set the tone for the rout. On February 4 Stephenson beat Eldred with a shot with four seconds left.
Jason Mizrahi First Team • Senior
The third-year varsity player led the team in scoring with 16.0 ppg and repeated as first team all-star. His six 3-pointers in one game tied the school record set by 1992 TVCS grad Kiri Humphrey and he also set a record of 49 from downtown on the season.
Mizrahi led the Bears in scoring in nine of the 14 league games, and scored a high of 27 against Eldred on January 12 (24 came in the second half).
“Jason showed the most growth,” Semo commented. “He showed acceptance of his role in a new offensive scheme which allowed other people to score with him.
“Jason was our big threat,” Semo added, “and we were able to use that to get our other people involved [in our offensive scheme.]”
Mizrahi was chosen T-V’s Offensive Player of the Year and is headed to Corning Community College, one of a number of schools which recruited him.
Durk Pearston Second Team • Junior
One of only two juniors on the all-star squad — the other being Narrowsburg’s Bruce Nober — Pearston, according to Semo, “showed the leadership qualities of a senior.”
The Bears’ Defensive Player of the year averaged 11 points and five blocks per game. Within the league, he held opposing centers to 3.7 points per game.
“Durk’s definitely the most coachable kid I’ve ever been around and it was an honor to coach him,” Semo noted. “I’m very excited about having him back next year.”
Pearston’s “monster” game came in the January 12 win over Eldred. He scored 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and had eight blocks in the 63-30 win.
“We had such a complete team it was hard to have one guy dominate,” said Semo, who also made note of senior Arthur Felder, who averaged 10 points and three blocks per game for the WSL champs.



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