There are still more than eight minutes left in Hudson Valley’s opening game here at the Empire State Games. The smoke residue from the fireworks at last night’s Opening Ceremonies is probably still falling down in Buffalo. But up here at Niagara, the scholastic women have already shown they are here to meet one end: win a third straight gold medal.
The 2007 and 2008 gold medalists lead Western 84-25 at the moment. They led 25-4 less than 10 minutes in and 50-17 at the half. And all those numbers are correct. Wow.
Hudson Valley’s perimeter defense and running game are something to behold. Saniya Chong, Felicia DaCruz, Teneka Whittaker, Liz Milner and Brittani Lai just keep stealing the ball and charging down court for layups or dump passes for layups. Chong has other college and high school coaches in the crowd in disbelief. When they’re not oohing and ahhing, they’re laughing from sheer delight. Her passing has been outstanding.
One player who really impressed me in the first half with her shooting ability was the one girl here I’d never seen play: Raegan Knox of John Jay. The rising junior showed a feathery touch. And with Chong, DaCruz, Milner and Lai here to set you up, the scoring skill would serve anyone well. I don’t know how many points she has, but Knox has filled that role well.
Hudson Valley will be awfully difficult to beat. This is not the same Western team that handed Hudson Valley it’s last ESG defeat in the ’06 gold medal game. Shanise Johnson, the former Rush-Henreitta star, is nowhere to be found. Someone will give Hudson Valley a game here, I think, but the team is a blur.
I’ll check back later with a couple photos (hopefully) and final stats.