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Rob Potter | Democrat

Monticello teammates Kenny Sanders Jr. (14) and Matt Strong (23) and Liberty’s Chris Soto (25) all try to grab a rebound in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s second annual Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Classic game at Sullivan County Community College. Looking on at left are Liberty teammates Eddie Byrd (3) and Mike McLean (5).

Liberty stops Monticello in Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE — January 22, 2010 — After taking a 28-14 lead in the opening quarter, the Liberty Indians withstood a spirited rally by the Monticello Panthers to record a 66-59 victory on Tuesday night in the second annual Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Classic basketball game at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the campus of Sullivan County Community College (SCCC).
In the opening minutes, players from both teams were trying to adjust to playing on a college court in front of a large crowd in the Time Warner Cable 6 “Game of the Week.”
With 4:59 remaining in the first quarter, Monticello’s Kenny Sanders Jr. made two free throws to even the score at 8-8.
But Liberty (4-8) responded with a 20-6 scoring run to close out the quarter. Dontrea McLaurin made a 3-pointer at the 2:43 mark and teammate Danny Anderson scored baskets on consecutive possessions with under a minute to go.
The Panthers roared back in the second period to cut the Indians’ lead to single digits. With 1:57 remaining, Jesse Kapito scored to bring Monticello (4-8) to within seven at 35-28. After a Liberty player was called for a charge, Monticello center Matt Strong put up a shot in the lane to make it a 35-30 game.
But Anderson answered to give the Indians a 37-30 advantage at halftime.
Liberty pushed its lead back into double figures in the third quarter. Senior guard Chris Soto made a 3-pointer with 12 seconds on the clock to give his team a 56-43 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Kapito swished a 3-pointer while being fouled just 45 seconds into the final quarter to pull Monticello to within 10 points at 56-46.
Kapito was unable to complete the rare four-point play as he missed his free throw. Teammate Juan Pena quickly grabbed the rebound and was fouled. But Pena missed both of his shots at the line.
As a team, Monticello went 3 of 13 at the free-throw line in the fourth period. For the game, the Panthers made 12 of the 30 foul shots they attempted.
Sophomore guard Eddie Byrd led Liberty with a game-high 14 points and Soto finished with 13 points.
Anderson and McLaurin each added nine points for the Indians, while Herman Drayton and Mike McLean had eight points and seven points, respectively.
Kapito paced the Panthers’ offense with 13 points. Pena and Strong finished with 10 points apiece.
Billy Cargill and Frank Small each netted seven points for Monticello.
“It was a great game,” Liberty Coach Jason Semo said. “This is what a Coaches vs. Cancer basketball game should be, two great teams giving it their all on the court for 32 minutes and not looking up at the scoreboard.”
Semo praised his players for their defensive effort to foil Monticello’s comeback attempt late in the game.
He also thanked Athletic Director Chris DePew and everyone at SCCC for hosting the event and the media outlets which covered the game.
“I was pleased with how we came back after the first quarter,” Monticello Coach Chris Russo said.
Understandably, Russo was not pleased with the Panthers’ free-throw shooting.
“We were aggressive in getting to the [foul] line, but when you go 12 for 30 at the line it makes a big difference in what was a seven-point game,” he said.
Like Semo, who is a good friend of his, Russo thanked DePew and SCCC for providing the venue for the event.
“It was a great atmosphere here tonight,” Russo said.
DePew was pleased to welcome the two basketball teams, the cheerleading teams and hundreds of fans to the fieldhouse.
“It was a great game for a great cause,” he said. “Chris [Russo] and Jason [Semo] are great guys and great coaches who do a fantastic job with their teams.”
DePew added that Coaches vs. Cancer is such a worthy fundraising cause.
As noted in the program for the game, Coaches vs. Cancer “is a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) that empowers basketball coaches, their teams, and local communities to make a difference in the fight against cancer.”
Since its inception in 1993, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised almost $50 million to support the American Cancer Society’s lifesaving mission to eliminate cancer as a life-threatening disease.
A total of $1,160 was raised for Coaches vs. Cancer through the admission fees and donations at Tuesday night’s game, which was broadcast on Wednesday night on Cable 6.
The game was dedicated to Coach Semo’s father, Jack Semo, who is currently battling cancer. Jason Semo noted that before the game, the Liberty players decided to play the contest for teammate Calvin Henry. A senior guard, Henry, was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was in the second grade.
Henry didn’t know his teammates were going to do that until moments before tip-off.
“It was a good surprise,” Henry said. “It really means a lot to me.”
Henry, who met NBA player Kevin Garnett through the Make--A-Wish Foundation when he was going through treatment for cancer, is looking forward to playing the rest of the basketball season with his teammates. He also is eagerly anticipating the spring sports season and competing for the Indians’ tennis team.
Notes: Following the national anthem, a moment of silence was observed for the people of Haiti affected by the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12.
For more information about the Coaches vs. Cancer program, visit the American Cancer Society Web site at
Two local online publications covered the game in addition to the Cable 6 television crew of game analyst Dick O’Neill, who is the former longtime Coach of the Monticello Panthers and a member of the Basketball Coaches Association of New York (BCANY) Hall of Fame, play-by-play announcer Christian Farrell and sideline reporter Lindsay Liquori.

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