By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE Six high school and college basketball games, 120 plus players, 12 hours and one great cause.
Through admission fees, sales of T-shirts, 50/50 raffles and donations, last Saturday’s fourth annual Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Classic held in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse at SUNY Sullivan raised $3,403.33 for the Oncology Unit at Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris. The games started in the morning and carried through late evening.
The money will be donated in honor of Cierra Boone, a 10-year-old girl from Freeport, Long Island who passed away from cancer on Feb. 1, 2011. Boone has a connection to Sullivan County as her cousin, Dante Agnew is a member of the SUNY Sullivan men’s basketball team.
“I was pretty surprised when I found out they were donating the money raised today in Cierra’s name,” Agnew said. “This is my first year here, but everybody has been so nice and it’s like a family here. When I told my family about this, they thought it was wonderful that the money was being donated to honor Cierra.”
Agnew, who is from Queens, always keeps Cierra in his heart and mind.
“I know she is up in heaven looking down on me,” he said. “And that makes me want to do my best every time I am on the basketball court.”
The Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Classic has certainly grown over the years.
“The first year, 2009, it was one game between Monticello and Liberty here at SCCC,” said Chris Russo, who is the Monticello boys’ basketball Coach and Co-Organizer of the Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Classic. “We have played Liberty all four years in this event. They won the first two games and we won the last two.”
Russo noted that he and then Liberty Coach Jason Semo organized the first classic. Over the past three years they spoke to friends who are coaches at Sullivan County high schools about having their teams also play in the event. Among those coaches are T-V girls’ Coach John Tenbus, Sullivan West girls’ Coach Pat Donovan, Livingston Manor girls’ Coach Kevin Clifford and Eldred girls’ Coach Jolene Porter.
The T-V Lady Bears and SW Lady Bulldogs played each other in the classic last year and this year. Saturday marked the first time the Livingston Manor and Eldred girls’ teams competed in the event.
Russo noted that while the event gives dozens of players the chance to play on a college court in front of a large crowd, everyone should remember the reason why the event is held each year.
“Cancer is a disease that affects so many people,” he commented. “People have parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and cousins who are diagnosed with cancer. I remind my team of that before the game. I tell them that the way we honor those who are battling cancer right now is to go out on the court and give it our best effort. We are just playing a basketball game, but these people are fighting against a terrible disease.”
SUNY Sullivan Athletic Director Chris DePew serves as the event’s other Co-Organizer. He explained that he found out about Cierra Boone and her struggle with cancer after he asked Agnew about the T-shirt he wears during the Generals’ pregame warmups. The T-shirt features a photo of Cierra Boone.
“It’s nice that the money raised today is in honor of Cierra,” DePew said. “I know it means a lot to Dante and his family.”
DePew praised everyone at SUNY Sullivan for working so hard to host the expanded Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Classic. He especially noted the work done by Adrianna Mayson, who is the Director of Student Activities, and Amy Porter, who is the Head Residence Hall Director.
“We are very pleased to host the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic here at Sullivan,” DePew said. “It is very worthwhile event that raises money for a good cause.”
The results of the three high school varsity games and two SUNY Sullivan games were as follows:
Liv. Manor 48, Eldred 22
Samantha Scott scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Lady Wildcats to victory. Teammate Ami Calo had seven points.
Tomara Bodnariuk led the Lady Yellowjackets with nine points.
Tri-Valley 64, SW 17
Mareena DiMilia and Katlynn Greffrath paced the Lady Bears’ offense with 16 points and 12 points, respectively.
Monticello 65, Liberty 42
Rob Riley led the Panthers with 18 points and teammate Sean Reuss added 16 points against a depleted Liberty team which was missing leading scorer Eddie Byrd, forced to sit out a game after being ejected the night before against Sullivan West.
Ryan Henry was Liberty’s top scorer with 17 points.
“We came out flat and not ready to play,” Liberty Coach Mike Salvia said. “They got off to a good start and hit some shots early that put us in a hole we couldn’t climb out of. We had a couple kids step up, most notably Ryan Henry and Marshon Williams, but it just wasn’t enough. [Monticello’s] Rob [Riley] and Sean [Reuss] were just too good inside and Anthony [Gray] did a great job defending us in the open floor.”
Sullivan 59, Manhattan 54
Isis Alonso led the Lady Generals with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Luna Jefferson and Kunnuh Wisseh each recorded a double-double for SUNY Sullivan. Jefferson had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Wisseh had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sullivan 80, Manhattan 50
Cleanthony Early and Willie Williams both finished the game with double-doubles in the Generals’ victory.
Early scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Williams netted 18 points and 15 rebounds.