By Fred Stabbert III
LAKE HUNTINGTON After jumping out to a 28-9 lead to start the third quarter, the Liberty Indians used clutch foul shooting down the stretch to hold on to a narrow 45-40 win on Friday night over the host Sullivan West Bulldogs in an Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV basketball game.
The game was played before a packed gym of about 600 at Lake Huntington.
The win upped the Liberty Indians’ record to 1-3 in Div. IV and 4-11 overall and moved them one step closer to qualifying for a post season berth (counting the forfeited wins earlier in the year). Liberty will have to appeal to Section IX for entry into the Class B Tournament should it reach .500 in Div. IV play.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 2-2 in Div. IV and 11-5 overall. They have already clinched a spot in the sectional tournament.
The Indians were on top of their game early, jumping out to a 12-2 first quarter lead. The game was played before a boisterous crowd which kept the volume level turned up all game as the student cheering sections from each school chided each other. (See page 6A)
Just as the game looked like it might be a runaway early in the third quarter, Liberty’s starting point guard, Eddie Byrd, was whistled for his second technical foul of the game and was ejected.
This momentum shift enabled the Bulldogs to go on a 13-4 run, closing the score to 32-25 to end the third.
The frenetic pace continued throughout the fourth quarter as Bulldog point guard John Masten scored a layup on a behind the back pass from Matt Cardona and center Patrick Pierce added a putback layup to tighten the score to 40-34.
Sullivan West had one last burst of scoring left as Cardona hit a layup and was fouled to close the score to 42-40.
But with time running out, the Bulldogs were forced to foul and Taylor Van Keuren drained three foul shots to seal the deal, 45-40.
Liberty’s Ryan Henry scored 13 points to lead Liberty, while Van Keuren netted seven points, Byrd had six points and Joe Franke finished with five points.
On the Bulldog side, Pierce had 10 points, E.J. Franskevicz recorded nine points and Sawyer Erlwein added seven points.
Both teams had a rough night of shooting from the free-throw line, with Liberty making 8-of-17 while Sullivan West was just 4-of-11.