By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY December 17, 2002 On Thursday night, the visiting Fallsburg Comets boys varsity hoopsters defeated the home team Indians of Liberty, 56-51, in a hard-fought OCIAA Division IV game that veteran referee Jerry Davitt called one of the best hes seen in recent years.
I just love a game like this, Davitt said. It was close and the competition was good. Both teams played very hard, and had good defense.
Nobody was reaching in and slapping at the ball, added Davitt. The kids on both teams were great [and] there werent many fouls.
And Davitt should know good basketball when he sees it. He coached hoops at Jeffersonville-Youngsville for a quarter of a century and is the only charter member of the old Sullivan County Board #247 referees chapter still active on the scholastic scene.
At halftime, both teams headed off to the locker room tied 26-26.
The third quarter proved to be decisive, as the Comets outgunned Liberty 11-5 in those eight minutes of play. The final period was dead even at 19-19 in a fast-paced finish down to the wire.
It was a war, Fallsburg Coach Paul Marsden said. Liberty came to play, and they played very good defense in the zone, and we put tremendous pressure on the ball and tried to get turnovers.
Marsden said its always difficult to play at Liberty (0-4, 0-2 OCIAA) because of the position of the backboards.
The rim looks like it just hangs out there in space, he said.
Veteran Liberty Coach Ed Riente was not available for comment after the game, but senior center Jeremy Liu wordlessly summed up the Indians loss.
At the final buzzer, Liu, who scored a game-high 19 points, was so overcome by emotion that he laid down under the Indians basket in defeat. Seconds later, Liu was helped back to his feet by a teammate in time for the traditional post-game handshake with the opposition.
Double digit scorers for Fallsburg (3-0, 1-0 OCIAA) were senior guard-forward Zaquan Hilliard, who netted 17 points and senior guard Jon Hinton, who recorded 15 points.
Liberty junior forward Andrew Riegler scored 11 points.
At the free throw line Fallsburg was 7-of-13 (54 percent), while Liberty went 5-for-6 (83 percent).
In addition to appreciating the effort of the youngsters on the court, Davitt also noticed the parents and students in the stands.
Its good to see the crowds coming back, said Davitt, recalling the good ole days of high school sports. These places used to be filled. I remember doing Liberty-Fallsburg games where you couldnt get into the gyms.
But games like Thursdays contest keep Davitt optimistic about the popularity of local high school sports.
Its coming back, and thats real good, he said.