By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE January 30, 2007 Blame it on the bus driver. Or a head’s up team.
Thursday night’s National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XV women’s basketball game between the host Lady Generals of Sullivan County Community College and the Dutchess Community College Lady Falcons got off to a late start when the bus driver transporting the Dutchess CC coaches and players made a wrong turn and wound up in Jeffersonville.
Nobody was sure how many city blocks that was, but it took a while for the Lady Falcons to wing over to “The Bunker” at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the SCCC campus in Loch Sheldrake.
After both teams warmed up for a few minutes, things finally got underway.
Dutchess CC (8-10 overall, 5-6 Region XV) jumped out to a 5-0 lead until Hannah Coen put SCCC (10-3 overall, 8-2 region) on the scoreboard with a successful 3-point shot at the 15:55 mark.
At 11:45, Shauna Murry put the Lady Generals up by one point. About a minute later, Pamela Graddick connected on a shot from outside the 19-foot, 9-inch arc to give the Lady Generals a four-point advantage (14-10).
Once in the driver’s seat, the Lady Generals never gave up the wheel. But the Lady Falcons tried to get back in the passing lane as they closed the gap until SCCC shifted into overdrive in the second half on the way to a 72-49 victory.
As SCCC Coach Paul Clune sat along the sidelines waiting for the other squad to appear, he had a few minutes to talk about the first game of the second semester.
“It was a long layoff for us,” he said of the six weeks since the team’s last game on December 16.
Four practices into the new semester, Clune said “conditioning is a big factor” as the Lady Generals shake off the rust.
SCCC lost a couple of starters LaShaun Malcolm and Victoria Carter to grades, while Nikki Dean, a freshman guard and 2006 Tri-Valley Central School graduate, remains out with a back injury.
Now that academics are in order, Lisa DeStefano and Lauren Wheeler are back in action for the Lady Generals.
“We’ve got a couple of new bodies,” Clune said. “Lisa [DeStefano] from Liberty brings a lot of energy and experience… she’s a strong player. And Lauren [Wheeler] is a much needed point guard because Nikki Dean is still down.”
Sullivan’s top scorers on Thursday night were Murry, Graddick and Hannah Coen. Each of them also recorded a double-double.
Murry netted a game-high 28 points, including four 3-pointers. She also grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out six assists and made three steals.
Graddick just missed picking up a triple-double, as she fell short by one assist. She had 22 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
Coen recorded 15 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Also helping the Lady Generals register their 23-point victory were Sharon Darling and DeStefano. Darling grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked seven shots, while DeStefano knocked down a pair of 3-point shots.
The double-digit scorers for Dutchess were Dena McKinney, who had a team-high 21 points, Jennifer Rothkranz, who registered 11 points.
Stats from the free-throw line: SCCC was 10-of-17 (59 percent); Dutchess CC went 6-of-15 (40 percent).
“We played as hard as we could, Sullivan’s just got a good team,” said Dutchess CC Coach Virgil Smith, who is in his first year as head coach of the Lady Falcons.
Smith credited the performance of three of his players: Dena McKinney (their big scoring threat), Jena Belouzzi “until the foul out” and Jennifer Rothkranz.
Now in his third year as coach of SCCC women’s basketball team, Clune summed up the game in a few words.
“I was impressed,” he said. “I told them in the locker room and we talked before the game that we were worried about being a little rusty and that conditioning was going to be a factor, and in the locker room [after the game] the girls said they were impressed with themselves.”
“It helps a lot with Shauna Murry shooting very well and when Pam [Graddick] steps up and makes plays,” Clune added.
Carl Graham, coach of Liberty High School’s girls’ junior varsity team is a familiar face at Lady Generals’ games, as he helps out at the scorer’s table.
“It was a lot of fun tonight, because he helps us out on our staff, and we had most of the [Liberty] varsity, j.v. and modified teams here watching the game,” Clune said. “It was great fun because Lisa [DeStefano] played at Liberty.”
So what is Clune’s overall take on the team?
“The chemistry is good, the kids like each other and have fun playing,” Clune commented. “Knock on wood, this was the start of getting to the regional tournament.”