By Frank Rizzo
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 20, 2001 There are ashes, and there is honey, in Dean Smiths mouth as he reflects back on his second year as head coach of the Sullivan County CC Lady Generals basketball team.
The bitter part is that his charges were denied a chance to play in the postseason tournament thanks to a late-season ruling by Region XV.
The sweet was having a group of girls who overcome obstacles to end the season on a winning note and with a positive attitude.
Sullivan finished with a 68 record overall, 67 in Region XV.
On February 5, the Region XV Womens Basketball Committee voted to change the Region XV Womens Tournament format from eight teams to six.
The letter to coaches and administrators from committee chair Sue Deer of Orange County CC read as follows:
With three teams folding for the season and the level of competition disproportionate, it was felt that this would be a fairer approach to the upcoming tournament
Changing this format will keep the 7th and 8th place teams from playing the top teams in a blow out situation. This then keeps the Regional tournament respectable, keeps costs in perspective, and still gives a fair chance to the 5th and 6th seeded teams.
Smith strongly disagrees with this decision, feeling the way his squad was playing late in the season would have put it in good stead against the top teams.
He was also irked by the tiebreaker used to determine the final seed. Sullivan and Monroe CC finished with identical records, but Monroe was given the nod because the tiebreaker was the team which won the second game in head to head competition.
Sullivan beat Monroe in the season opener, but lost to the Lady Mustangs on February 3.
Smith felt that a playoff, or points differential, should have determined this last playoff spot.
Some Bad Breaks
Had Sullivan played the six games against the three Region XV teams which folded Orange, Dutchess, and Rockland Smith was certain his team would have won enough to make the playoffs.
The team got another bad break when leading scorer Shavon Bryant, a Liberty CS grad, was knocked out for the season with a knee injury in the first semester.
Shavons loss was devastating to us, said Smith. With her I think we would have been the third seed.
With Bryant out, the roster was reduced to six players.
For Smith, the highlight of the season came in a February 21 loss to host Ulster County CC in Stone Ridge. The Lady Senators, then ranked 15th nationally, took a 34-24 halftime lead (after leading by as many as 15 points). SCCC fought back to tie the game 46-46 with 12 minutes left when Tiffany Simmonds fouled out, leaving just five players.
Four minutes later Kia Perry fouled out as Ulster took a 50-46 lead.
In the meantime Livingston Manor CS grad Amanda Cox jammed her shooting hand on the floor.
She was in tears from the pain, had to play the last eight minutes with one hand, but she wouldnt come out, Smith related.
Despite this, the Generals stayed close, cut the gap to five with 31&Mac218;2 minutes to go after falling behind by double digits. Ulster eventually pulled away to win 69-55.
That was one of the most courageous efforts Ive ever seen in all my years of coaching, said Smith. They left everything on the floor. Im so proud of every one of them.
Hanifah George led SCCC in that game with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Also in double figures were Janise Ashe (14), Liberty CS grad Carly Sklar (13) and Cox (12 points, seven assists, five steals).
Smith said one debit against his team was too many missed practices.
That hurt us in the long run, he said. If they had done the right thing we would have been playing in front of our fans in the Region XV Tournament.
I hope the kids we have coming back reflect on our shortcomings and [display] the same heart and desire they showed in the last few weeks, he added.
Im most proud that we had a Grade point average of over 3.0 as a team and in the end thats what its all about, Smith noted.
Our program is here to stay; I have a lot of hope about it, Smith said. I would like to thank the college for the opportunity it afforded me to coach this team.
On the year, Sullivan averaged 48.2 ppg while giving up 50.6.
The following are Smiths thumbnails of his players. For Amanda Cox, see sidebar on page 16A.
Shavon Bryant SO guard 5-4 Liberty: A class act. Liberty should be proud of her. She graduated with over a 3.5 average. A great team captain. Ill miss her. She makes coaching worthwhile. As noted, Bryant was the leading scorer a year ago and Smith said her loss made a big difference in the teams fortunes.
Hanifah George FR forward 5-7 St. Thomas, USVI: One of the better freshmen in Region XV. Has the skills of a point guard but I played her at power forward. George averaged 16.1 points per game (second behind Cox) and led Sullivan with 9.3 rebounds per game.
Janise Easy Ashe SO guard 5-2 Brooklyn: I was real happy with the way she turned her game around. Went from scoring four or five points to 13 this year. She picked it up in the second half of the season, where she was one of our go-to players and the leading scorer. Second on the team with 3.4 assists per game.
Tiffany Simmonds FR center-forward 5-6 Brooklyn: I expect big things from her next year. One of our most improved players and best defensive player. Will guard the oppositions best player next year.
Carly Sklar FR guard 5-1 Liberty: Will surprise some people. Scored twice in double digits the last few weeks of the season. She can be an eight-to-10-point scorer for us next year.
Kia Refrigerator Perry SO center-forward 5-9 Brooklyn: Injuries slowed down Perry, a second team Region XV pick a year ago. Our hardest working player. A great rebounder. Second to George in grabbing 8.8 boards per game.