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You’ve got to have heart

State Champ again: Liberty’s Andy Martinez (182), pictured here in an earlier season win, defeated Highland’s A.J Buchanan to punch his ticket back to states for the second straight year.

February 16, 2012

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Valentine’s Day and National Heart Month call forth either romantic thoughts or the need to safeguard cardiac health. Heart is vital in evincing valiant efforts under trying circumstances and presents a symbol of the human capacity for compassion. In all these regards, it was a heartfelt week. This past week literally tugged at the heartstrings in basketball, indoor track and wrestling.

Basketball highlights included the dramatic Division IV rematch between the boys of Sullivan West and Liberty. Back on January 10, Liberty appeared to have won a key league fray with its archrival, but the district’s discovery of an ineligible player prompted the decision to forfeit all wins to date, including that win over the Westies. Since then, the Bulldogs punched their ticket to sectionals but Liberty needed to win the February 10 rematch to keep its appeal bid alive for inclusion in the Big Dance. After jumping out to a 26-9 lead at the half, the game’s polarity switched when Indians’ star Eddie Byrd received his second technical foul and was ejected from the game. Sullivan West went on a 16-8 tear in the third quarter that included a trio of treys from E.J. Franskevicz to close the gap to seven heading into the final frame. The Bulldogs whittled down the lead to two before Liberty’s Taylor Vankeuren iced four crucial free throws to secure the 46-40 win. Liberty (4-11, 1-3 OCIAA) hosts O’Neill on February 15 in a do-or-die league tilt. A win will likely secure a sectional berth, while a loss will dash such hopes. Sullivan West (11-5, 2-2 OCIAA) can ill afford to lose to the Raiders and drop to a lower seed in the big tourney. They’d like to avoid Burke or Ellenville in the opening round. Fallsburg looked to claim a share of the Division V lead as it hosted S.S. Seward, the only team to beat them in league play. But the Spartans completed the season sweep with a 59-53 win. Monticello (5-11, 2-2 OCIAA) kept its sectional hopes alive with a dramatic 47-45 win over Port Jervis. Like Liberty, the Monties face a senior-night catharsis as they host Goshen in a must-win game on February 15.

Photo by Tom Brucher

Eldred’s Breanna Brucher set a personal best mark of 10-0 as she beat all comers to capture this year’s pole vault title at the OCIAA Championships at West Point. She is the first girl in Eldred history to win a gold medal at the League Championships.