By Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY During the recently completed 2011-2012 high school basketball season, Coach John Tenbus led the Tri-Valley Lady Bears to an 18-2 record and the Section IX Class C championship game.
The John A. Coleman Catholic High School Stateswomen defeated T-V, 56-28, in that title game, which was played on March 2 at SUNY New Paltz. Even though Coleman spoiled the Lady Bears’ bid to repeat as Section IX Class C champions, the Lady Bears still had quite a season. They finished with a 9-1 record in Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division V, which was good enough to share the division title with the Tuxedo Lady Tornadoes.
And in compiling its 18 victories, T-V defeated Class B, C and D teams. At least four of the Lady Bears’ opponents qualified for the Section IX Tournament in their respective classes.
For guiding the Lady Bears to nearly 20 wins this season, a share of the OCIAA Div. V title and the opportunity to repeat as sectional champions all after losing one of Tri-Valley’s all-time great players in Jackie Pugh Tenbus has been chosen as the Sullivan County Democrat Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year.
“We knew coming into this year that there was no Jakki Pugh, who was a tremendous player and leader for us last season,” Tenbus said of the 1,000-point career scorer who graduated last June. “But it was still a great season. A lot of the girls stepped up into different roles and they did a great job with that.
“For example, Sabrena Smith stepped in at point guard this season and did a very good job,” Tenbus added. “Katlyn Greffrath and Mareena DiMilia also stepped up for us this season. They were both named to the Section IX Class C Girls’ Basketball All-Star team. We didn’t have a player who averaged more than 9.8 points a game, so these girls really played as a team.”
When asked about a favorite moment or game from this season, Tenbus was quick to answer.
“It was defeating Tuxedo in the [Section IX Class C] semifinal game,” he said of the game in which the Lady Bears rallied from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter to record a 38-32 victory. “It was a nice win for us because [Tuxedo] Coach Dave Powers is a great coach and he has a great team. Even though they were losing, our girls didn’t give up. They kept playing hard and playing together and we were able to get the win.”
This was Tenbus’ second season of coaching the Lady Bears’ varsity team. Prior to that, he spent one year as the coach of the Lady Bears’ junior varsity team and six years as the coach of the T-V boys’ junior varsity basketball team.
“It’s been great so far,” he explained. “We won the section championship last season and made it back to the sectional title game this year. It’s great to be a part of these two seasons.”
Tenbus noted that he has been influenced by a number of fellow coaches during his career.
“Jason Semo was the varsity boys’ basketball coach here at T-V when I got here and I spent several seasons as his assistant,” Tenbus said. “I learned a lot from him.”
Other boys’ basketball coaches Tenbus credited with helping him over the years are T-V’s Brian Tingley, Monticello’s Chris Russo, S.S. Seward’s Rob Gravelle and Dick O’Neill, who coached at John S. Burke Catholic High School and Monticello High School before retiring several years ago.
“Chris [Russo], Jason [Semo] and I get together to have dinner before the beginning of every basketball season,” Tenbus commented. “It’s a preseason routine for us. We talk about strategies and game plans for the upcoming season.”
Girls’ basketball coaches whom Tenbus credited with helping him include Livingston Manor’s Kevin Clifford, S.S. Seward’s Joe DiMattina, Tuxedo’s Dave Powers and Andy Taggart, who coached the T-V Lady Bears varsity team for many years before Tenbus took over at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season.
“Andy Taggart has been a big coaching influence for me,” Tenbus explained. “I got to be his assistant for a season and that was a great opportunity. I learned a great deal from him and a lot of what I do as a coach now comes from him.”
Tenbus grew up in Narrowsburg and is a 1998 graduate of Narrowsburg Central School, where he played on the varsity soccer team for four years, the varsity basketball team for three years and the varsity baseball team for four years. He then enrolled at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He played several intramural sports at King’s, including basketball and flag football.
Tenbus graduated from King’s in May 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education. After doing some substitute teaching in the Sullivan West Central School District later in May and in June, he had an interview for a teaching job in the Tri-Valley Central School District. After a second interview with T-V Elementary Principal Nancy George, Tenbus was hired as an elementary teacher at the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year.
In 2005, Tenbus earned a Master’s Degree in Education through an online program at the University of New England. For his first six years at T-V, he taught second grade. The next two years, he taught third grade, which was followed by a year of teaching sixth-graders.
Away from the court, Tenbus likes to spend quality time with his family. And that family is about to grow. Tenbus and his wife, Colleen, are expecting a baby boy, who is due to arrive on April 20.
“It’s very exciting,” Tenbus said.
And he noted that the girls on his basketball team are very excited about the baby as well.
“They are really looking forward to seeing him,” Tenbus said. “But they are very polite and respectful. They always made it a point to come over and say hello to Colleen at our games this season.”
Tenbus’ other family members include his father Terry, owner of Tenbus Construction; mother Margy, who is the Principal at Sullivan West Central School; father-in-law Robert Krom, who is retired from corrections; mother-in-law Patricia Krom, who is a high school math teacher at T-V and sister Jessica Eick, who is a Physician’s Assistant and lives in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. with her husband Frank and their two children, Frank Jr. and Emma.
Among the other coaches who received consideration for the Democrat Coach of the Year was Livingston Manor’s Kevin Clifford, who guided the Lady Wildcats to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class D Final Four held earlier this month at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. Before seeing its season end with a 53-26 loss to Section II and Region II Class D champion Argyle in a NYSPHSAA Class D semifinal game, Manor won the OCIAA Division VI championship with a perfect 4-0 record and the Section IX Class D championship.