By Rob Potter
LIBERTY When opposing basketball teams get ready to play the Liberty boys’ and girls’ teams, they often base their defensive game plan on stopping the “Killer B’s” Eddie Byrd and Olivia Baum.
In addition to being the leading scorers for the Indians and Lady Indians, respectively, Byrd and Baum are among the top scorers among all players at Sullivan County high schools. Two weeks ago, Byrd and Baum were the No. 1 scorers for the local players. Byrd led the boys by averaging 19.5 points per game, while Baum led the girls with 16.8 points per game.
This week, Byrd was still leading the boys with a 21.4 points per game average while Baum was second (behind Fallsburg’s Sheryl Pinder) averaging 15.1 points per game.
There’s no doubt that Baum and Byrd are both having great seasons. Not surprisingly, both have put in a great deal of time and effort during practices and workouts last summer to achieve this success.
“I’m more focused this season,” said Byrd, an 18-year-old senior guard who has been a starter for the Indians’ varsity basketball team since he was a freshman. “Last summer, I came to the school and did a lot of work with Coach [Mike] Salvia. He worked with me on footwork and shooting and it has made me a lot better.”
Byrd is equally adept at driving to the basket or swishing a 3-point shot.
“If I’m open, it’s going up,” he said of his shooting philosophy.
Of course, Byrd is grateful for his teammates.
“I feel like all of my teammates know when to get me the ball,” he added. “I like to pass the ball to them as well.”
Byrd said he “definitely wants to play basketball in college.” Right now, however, he is not sure where that may be.
“There are a couple of schools looking at Eddie,” Salvia said. “We want to find the school that’s best for Eddie for basketball and for academics and what he wants to major in.”
For the near future, Byrd is concentrating on helping the Liberty Indians play well.
“We want to get some more wins this season,” he said.
Salvia noted that is “very reassuring” to have Byrd out on the court.
“The best thing I can say about Eddie is that he gives it everything he has in every game,” Salvia said. “You know you can count on 20 points from Eddie every night.”
Like Byrd, Baum has been a key player for her team for a few seasons. Baum, who is a 17-year-old junior guard, is a three-year starter for the Lady Indians.
Something else that Baum has in common with Byrd is that she can score from anywhere on the court.
“But I like to drive [to the basket] more because there is a better chance of the ball going in the basket,” Baum said. “I’m more confident in driving to the basket.”
Baum also credits Salvia for helping her improve her game last summer.
“I liked working with Coach Salvia,” she commented. “He helped me improve my footwork.”
“And my teammates help me a lot,” Baum added. “They make good passes to help me take good shots.”
In addition to working with Salvia last summer, Baum played for the Hudson Valley Knights, an AAU team based in Poughkeepsie, last spring and summer. She learned a great deal in her first season with the team.
“Most of the girls on the team are from schools like Arlington, John Jay and Lourdes,” Baum explained. “Those schools are a lot bigger than Liberty. But the competition was good.
“We played in a lot of different tournaments,” she continued. “We went to tournaments in different states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia and a couple of tournaments here in New York.”
Baum also credits Liberty Lady Indians’ Coach Beth Quatrale for helping her improve as a player.
“She’s done a lot for me,” Baum said. “She’s a good coach and I really like her. She’s always willing to help, which shows she really cares.”
Quatrale was quick to praise Baum.
“She has worked very hard to improve and she’s a very good high school basketball player,” Quatrale said. “I love the energy she brings to the team. Olivia is always positive and she supports her teammates. She gets the other girls excited about the games and gets them ready to play.”