By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY February 1, 2008 The home team Liberty Indians had hopes of pulling an upset win in Tuesday night’s Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV game against the John S. Burke Catholic School Eagles.
But a few things got in the way, including a change of momentum following a 20-minute delay for an injury and the more experienced Burke team rebounding from an early deficit.
As a result, Burke registered a 59-50 win.
Liberty (4-9, 2-3 Division IV) jumped out to a 10-3 advantage in the first quarter. But the Eagles came out on fire in the second period, outscoring the Indians 18-9 to take a 21-19 lead at the half.
Burke (10-3, 5-1 Division IV) dominated the third period as well. The Eagles outpaced Liberty 24-13 in those eight minutes of play, aided in large part by a series of successful 3-point shots by Chris Undersinger.
Liberty pulled out the stops in the final stanza, outscoring the Eagles 18-14. But it wasn’t enough as Burke enjoyed a nine-point victory.
Within the first minute of the second period, the Eagles converted a conventional bucket followed by a 3-pointer to close within two points, and then tied it up at 10-10. At the 3:04 mark, the game was tied 14-14 and right before the halftime buzzer the score was even again at 19-19.
Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles went on a run to take a 36-27 lead. Undersinger, who knocked down five 3-pointers during the game, closed out the period with a trey to put Burke up 45-32.
With 4:17 left in the fourth period, Liberty closed to within five points (47-42), and then nailed a 3-pointer to make it a 49-45 contest.
At 2:04, the Indians narrowed the Eagles’ lead to 49-48.
Then at the 1:39 mark, Liberty’s Connor Hinton stole the ball, raced downcourt and was fouled going up for a basket. Hinton made both of his free throws to give the Indians a 50-49 lead.
But Liberty’s advantage didn’t last, as a combination of buckets and free throws by Burke’s Derrick Stanton, Connor Sullivan and D.J. Gibson closed out the scoring.
Justen Mills paced the Liberty offense with 17 points, while teammate Ivan Rivera netted nine points on a trio of successful 3-pointers.
Gibson was Burke’s top scorer with 19 points. Undersinger added 15 points on five 3-points shots and Derrick Stanton had 12 points.
Burke held an advantage at the free-throw line. The Eagles made 16-of-27 (59 percent) of their foul shots, while the Indians were 7-of-15 (47 percent) at the line.
“It was a very good game, Liberty played real hard… they’ve improved a lot since the first time we saw ‘em,” Burke Coach Doug Janeczko said.
“We tried to take Justen [Mills] away from ’em, but they had other people who stepped up”, he added. “They made plays, they got into the paint. They got good penetration and good easy layups… they handled the pressure pretty well, I was impressed.”
Janeczko credited the play of Stanton, Undersinger and Brian Clarke.
Janeczko noted that Clarke “came off the bench and made some big plays, got a few easy looks at the end.”
Liberty’s Coach Jason Semo said, “We did a lot of preparing for them, we had their number.
“We were there with them… you’re talking about a team that beat us by almost 30 [points] last time,” Semo continued. “Tonight, we had a chance to beat ‘em.
“The first quarter really showed how much we had prepared for this, how much we wanted it. I think we surprised them, I think they were shocked by how hard we played.
“We did a great job on the boards in the first quarter, then we started letting their shooters roam around a little bit… we gave them too much room,” he added.
Semo noted that the Eagles “are kids who play extremely hard, they play like an experienced team.”
“Tonight made a statement for us,” Semo concluded. “Maybe the difference in the score was nine points, but the game was a lot closer than that. [Justen] Mills did a fantastic job for us.”