By Lori Brown
LIBERTY January 22, 2008 Before Friday night’s Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV game versus the visiting James I. O’Neill Raiders, Liberty Coach Jason Semo was pretty positive that junior guard Dustin VanLieu was going to score his 1,000th career point since he was only 11 points shy of the milestone.
Semo also said that he thought this game was going to be close. The game was so close the score was tied at 53-53 at the end of regulation and the outcome was decided in a four-minute overtime period.
With 18.5 seconds left in overtime, O’Neill’s Connor Broesler made two foul shots to tie the score at 61-61.
But Dashawn Williamson scored with six seconds remaining to give the Indians a 63-61 lead.
With only three seconds left on the clock, O’Neill Coach Debbie Crowe called a quick timeout to try and set up a game-tying or game-winning shot.
When play resumed, the Raiders took a couple of shots. But the shots were unsuccessful, giving Liberty (4-7, 2-2 Division IV) a two-point victory and the hometown crowd a chance to voice its approval.
Liberty’s Ivan Rivera stepped up to score four points within the first minute of OT. Williamson then converted a pair of free throws to push the Indians’ advantage to 59-53.
But O’Neill (8-4, 5-1 Division IV) rallied behind four points from Ben Johnson and a basket by Robert Dunn.
The Indians began the game with a 7-0 scoring run and held a 13-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams kept their momentum strong during the second period. Liberty pulled away a bit to take a 27-21 advantage at halftime.
Just 20 seconds into the third quarter, Dustin VanLieu swished a 3-pointer to bring his career total to 998 points.
With 2:28 seconds remaining in the frame, VanLieu reached the milestone of 1,000 career points. The game was stopped as VanLieu was congratulated by his teammates and Semo. VanLieu was then awarded the game ball.
The Indians began the fourth quarter with a 46-38 advantage.
But the Raiders scored seven straight points to make it a 46-45 game. Following a timeout, O’Neill’s Chris Outing went 1-of-2 at the free-throw line to tie the score at 46-46.
In the final two minutes, O’Neill’s Jimmy Doonan made a 3-pointer to give his team a 53-51 lead.
But Williamson tied the game at 53-53 by scoring with only 45 seconds remaining on the clock.
With less than 10 seconds left, O’Neill made several attempts at scoring a basket but could not sink a potential game-winning shot.
Williamson paced the Liberty offense with a game-high 22 points. Rivera and Dustin VanLieu each had 13 points.
The Indians Liberty made just 44 percent of their free throws, but Williamson went 4-for-4 in overtime.
“Our kids came out smiling and I am really proud of the kids,” Semo said. “They have been working extremely hard and improving themselves as basketball players and people. Tonight they deserved the win and pulled through it to make it happen. Tonight was their night.”
Semo was quick to praise Coach Crowe and the Raiders.
“Debbie Crowe did a great job of coaching,” Semo said. “I commend O’Neill and they were great competition. O’Neill’s kids are very hard workers as well.”
Of course, Semo was pleased with VanLieu’s accomplishment.
“I am very proud of Dustin VanLieu tonight, this was a great milestone for him,” Semo said. “I have personally known him since second grade. I think the win meant more for Dustin than the 1,000 points he made.
“Dustin has constant competition from his brother, Ryan,” Semo added. “It takes a team to get the one big play for Dustin to make his shot.”
Semo noted it was a big night for the Liberty community.
“The crowd came alive and I am happy for the kids, the school, the town and the administration,” he said. “The spirit is coming alive. The kids are great on the court as well as off the court.”
Chris Outing led the Raiders by recording a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Robert Dunn and Ben Johnson each added 14 points for O’Neill.
“Rebounding went real well, we did a good job boxing out, which is fundamental defense,” Crowe said.
“We had a little trouble running half court offense,” she added. “We picked up some fouls and that hurt. We had 19 turnovers, which hurt as well.
Crowe noted that her team stepped up late in the game.
“We fought back during the fourth quarter and had aggressive defense,” she said. “We played pressure defense and we tried to not give them easy baskets.”