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Huskies build early lead and hang on to win

January 2nd, 2013

When Highland’s boys basketball team played Pine Bush Friday in Highland Falls during the Anderson/Craig tournament at O’Neill High School, Cory Garcia had just hit an inside shot with four minutes left in the first quarter, and the Huskies ran off with an early 10-0 lead.

Ryan Merget didn't make this shot in the first half, but he still helped by scoring 11 points in the game.

Ryan Merget didn’t make this shot in the first half, but he still helped by scoring 11 points in the game.

Garcia and brother, Bo, who finished the game with 12 points, each went inside and hit a three-pointer to help take credit for that surge, but Pine Bush would push back and make it a three-point game late in the fourth before Highland survived to win 70-66.

“In the first half, the kids came out, and we shot the ball well. We controlled the ball, didn’t turn it over and played good defense, and then in the second half we had to hang on for dear life,” said Mike Milliman, Highland’s coach.

Highland had a 13-point lead, 55-42, at the end of the third quarter. But Pine Bush’s bench came in the fourth and started landing three-pointers, a pair from Deric Kliti and one each from Seamus Mulhare and Tyler Duck, until Antonio Brown, who finished the game with eight points, scored inside with 55 seconds left to cut Highland’s lead to 69-66.

James Relyea, who led Highland with 25 points, stalled the drive with a key defensive rebound before the Huskies managed to run out the clock.

“They hit some key shots and never gave up,” said Milliman. “Maybe it was a good thing we had a little bit of adversity at the end.”

When that final drive stalled, Pine Bush dropped to 0-7 after losing to Marlboro and Newburgh a week earlier.

“We’re in a situation where there’s 55 seconds left in the game, down by three points in a no-foul situation -– and we foul. That pretty much sums up our year at this point right now,” said Stephen Distefano, Pine Bush’s coach.

Starter Pete Fortes scored 13 points in the game, but not one in the fourth quarter as Distefano went to his bench for Mulhare, Kliti, Duck and Aasim Sullivan. Mulhare led the Bushmen with 15 points, and Kliti chipped in for six with his pair of three-pointers in the fourth. Duck and Sullivan each scored five points.

“Those are four guards that brought us to that point in the fourth quarter,” said Distefano.

“(Mulhare) played an outstanding game.”

And as the Bushmen look for that first victory, Distefano was starting to see that he might have potential elsewhere on the team to get through that barrier.

“It’s about that time when we have to start making switches,” he said. “They made us come to life, and that’s what we need for four quarters.”

By Bond Brungard

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