SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — “Spring forward,” asserted by this past weekend’s reminder to set the clocks ahead, is an annual ritual that bodes longer days ahead. And with such comes the advent of golf, baseball, softball and track, those wonderful spring sports still weeks away from their first actual debut. Sullivan County teams are already practicing, mostly in gyms, but gearing up nonetheless.
On the local scene, the 18-2 Tri-Valley Lady Bears girls basketball team and their senior heroine Jakki Pugh ended their glorious run on March 9 with a 64-40 regional semifinal loss to Section 1 juggernaut Haldane, a team in search of its sixth state championship.
Pugh had already delivered on her vow to guide her team to a Section 9 title. Bolstered by a legion of fans that packed the gym at Mount St. Mary College, T-V seemed stoked to take on the Lady Blue Devils, a mere two wins shy of reaching the state’s Final Four slated for this weekend. They’d have to reckon with Fordham-bound senior Liz Milner and her AAU pedigree teammates that play competitive basketball all year round. Haldane is no stranger to Section 9 champions. This vanquishing of Tri-Valley would mark the 13th time that they had ousted our section’s best. Prior victims included Roscoe, four times; Livingston Manor, twice; Eldred, three times; Seward, twice; and Delaware Valley, once.
Pugh scored nine points in the first quarter before Haldane began triple teaming her, opting to foul her, rather than giving her the open looks and denying her the steals that led to transition buckets. While she had 16 points by the half, she’d only manage a lone free throw in the final 16 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Haldane rained down six three-point shots, including three in a row to close out the first half. While the Lady Bears stayed close at 19-12 after one quarter, Haldane’s lead burgeoned to 43-21 at the half and 51-28 after three quarters. Outsized and new to this level of play, Tri-Valley’s youngsters, featuring two freshmen in Sabrena Smith and Kaitlynn Greffrath, one sophomore in co-captain Mareena DiMilia and a junior in Erin Smith, would amass only 23 points among them to go along with Pugh’s 17 by game’s end. Haldane (15-4) ended up with nine treys to its credit, unfazed by either a man-to-man or zone defense. Milner led her team with 17.
Pugh fouled out with 1:45 remaining with an outpouring of tears, she felt the finality of her high school career register. First-year coach John Tenbus comforted the noble senior, the lone returnee from last year’s team. Pugh ended her career with 1,192 points and a Section 9 high 22 points-per-game average. She was also the leading scorer in Section 9 this season. Tri-Valley was the fifth-ranked Class C girls team in NYS.
This past weekend, former Tri-Valley standout thrower Ryan Loughney won the NCAA Division II national title in the weight throw with a heave of 72-1.75 feet. Loughney, a junior who attends Ashland University in Ohio, is coached by four-time Olympian Jud Logan. Last May, Loughney won the D-II national title in the hammer throw with a mark of 218-6.