Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Rob Taurino, Section IX’s leading scorer, exploded for a career-high 45 points during Roscoe’s 73-59 loss to Fallsburg in Saturday’s opening game of the BCANY vs. Cancer Classic.
Local schools, athletes cherish playing in Cancer Classic
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO February 19, 2013 The fifth annual BCANY [Basketball Coaches Association of New York] vs. Cancer Classic didn’t go exactly as planned this year, but the charity event was a resounding success nonetheless.
Originally scheduled for February 8-9 at SUNY Sullivan’s Paul Gerry Field-House, the slate of five high-school basketball games had to be rescheduled due to last weekend’s storm.
To add to the pressures on the event’s organizer Monticello social studies teacher and varsity boys’ basketball coach Chris Russo the college had other commitments this past weekend leaving the event without a proper venue.
Enter Monticello Central School District athletic director Doug Murphy. “When Chris [Russo] informed me that the college had prior commitments and couldn’t host the games this weekend, I told him we’d be more than happy to host it here,” offered Murphy.
“We coordinated it with all the schools involved and it’s just a great event and for such a great cause that we were more than happy to hold it here,” added Murphy.
The charity event was founded five years ago by Russo and Jason Semo former Liberty athletic director. Semo’s father John “Jack” Semo, a 60-year resident of the area and a Tri-Valley graduate lost his battle with cancer this past August.
“Jack lived his life to the fullest. He was blessed with many family members and friends that were dear to his heart,” said Russo. “He was a proud man who cared very deeply about helping others and was extremely grateful for the tremendous support he received during his long battle with cancer,” he added.
Saturday’s games were dedicated to Semo and former Sullivan County Democrat sports editor Rob Potter.
Potter was a graduate of Hancock Central School (class of 1991) and was a member of the Callicoon United Methodist Church. He was named sports editor at the Democrat in 1991 and was a veritable fixture on local high-school sidelines, in gymnasiums and just about anywhere in the county where young athletes performed.
Potter held his post as sports editor until his untimely and shocking death to pancreatic cancer last May at the young age of 38.
“Rob’s love of sports transcended the game, and he always, always went the extra mile to make people happy,” said Democrat publisher Fred Stabbert III.
Said Murphy of Potter, “[Rob was] just a great, great guy. He was always positive and a genuine person. I don’t think anyone has ever had a harsh word for Rob and no matter the score or the outcome, Rob always found the positive in an event and that always reflected in his wonderful articles.”
Saturday’s BCANY vs. Cancer event kicked off at 10 am. and was comprised of five local boys’ and girls’ varsity high school basketball games - one JV game between the Liberty and Monticello boys was also held to fill the 5 pm. game slot.
The 1:30 pm. game between arch rivals Sullivan-West and Tri-Valley actually doubled as the championship game of December’s Walton Tip-Off Tournament. The game had originally been scheduled for December 7, but due to snow and ice had to be cancelled. Because of scheduling conflicts, the two schools decided to use their match-up at the BCANY vs. Cancer event as the Walton tournament champ.
In a competitive game, Sullivan-West was able to pull away from the Bears of Tri-Valley in the second half to secure a 68-53 win. Matt Cardona was named tournament MVP. “It was a great game today and I’m happy to be named MVP,” said Cardona. “But today, I think, is about more than these games. It’s about fighting cancer and that’s more important than any game ever is.”
Echoing Cardona’s sentiment was Sullivan West coach Bruce Nober who also preferred to talk about the event rather than his big win.
“I just think it’s great to play for a cause like this,” said Nober. “It’s a cause that gives the sport and the games a far deeper meaning. In any game there are always winners and losers, but today I think every single team that participated was a winner. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t been touched by this disease,” added Nober.
Asked if he knew either of the men that this year’s event was dedicated to, Nober offered, “Rob I knew from both playing and coaching when I played at Narrowsburg (now part of the Sullivan-West School District) and then as a coach at Sullivan-West.
“Great, great guy. Rob was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and he had just this passion for high-school sports. Rob was everywhere and will be sorely missed indeed.
Sullivan West senior Sawyer Erlwein had some kind words for Potter as well, saying, “He was always there. He was such a nice guy and always had questions for us [the players] and always wrote great and positive articles about us.”
Asked how he felt about participating in Saturday’s event, Erlwein added, “I truly feel honored to be able to play a game I love for such a great cause.” Erlwein explained that two years ago he’d lost a close family friend to pancreatic cancer, and offered, “I was very upset about it [the loss], but when I saw my dad so upset it really affected me deeply. It’s something you just never get over.”
Tri-Valley girl’s basketball coach John Tenbus, whose team also squared off against Sullivan West said, “This event was really important to me for several reasons. If you remember the Classic started out with just Liberty and Monticello, I was actually Jason’s [Semo] JV basketball coach in high-school, and I got a call from him saying that they wanted to open the event up to girl’s teams as well which was exciting.
“The event is just growing and growing and raises a heck of a lot of money each year, and the best part is that all of it [the money] goes toward local patients.
Indeed, all proceeds including concession monies go to the Oncology Unit at Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Harris.
“I also knew ‘Jack’ [Semo] through Jason, and I can say honestly that he was just the epitome of a stand-up guy,” continued Tenbus. “He was an extremely family oriented man. He loved his grandkids and all of his family with all of his heart. Just a great wonderful man.”
Tenbus, who said he lost both his grandparents to cancer, added, “It’s just always something that’s hard to deal with, and it’s just so prevalent. Hopefully somewhere down the line they’ll find a cure, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Asked for his sentiments on Rob Potter, Tenbus offered, “One of the big things with Rob was that he took ultimate pride in his work. He was at every game and covered them to the fullest of his special abilities. His articles were always on point, but more importantly he always took the time to really get to know the players and coaches.”
Monticello sophomore Sha-Shawn Drayton, who’s Panther squad played the day’s featured and final match-up against Liberty, said, “I think it’s a wonderful thing to play for a real cause. To raise money for cancer makes the game so much more important than any other time.”
Drayton continued, “I lost my grandmother to cancer and we were very, very close. It was very painful for me and my entire family, which also gives all of these games a much deeper meaning. I just hope they find a cure so no one else has to suffer like she [Drayton’s grandmother] did.” The Panthers would go on to rout Liberty by a score 64-26.
In other action, the lady Yellow Jackets of Eldred won big against Liberty 40-28, and the Fallsburg boys defeated Roscoe 73-59, despite a career-high 45 points by Rob Taurino. The JV game between Liberty and Monticello ended in a 74-21 Monticello win.
Perhaps Murphy said it best when summing up the day:
“It was all there; a great cause, some great action, and all to commemorate two pillars of the community.”
Anyone interested in donating to the cause is asked to write a check to Catskill Regional Medical Center Oncology Unit. For more information call CRMC at (845)-794-3300.