By Phil Terrigno
NEW ROCHELLE — There were moments before both of Ossining’s sectional games at the County Center when it appeared Jalay Knowles might play.
The sophomore center dressed in her warm-up attire and walked out with the team but never made it off the bench due to an ankle injury she suffered on Feb. 15 against Mamaroneck.
Finally cleared to play in the Pride’s 69-49 state regional semifinalwin over Section 4’s Horseheads Tuesday at the College of New Rochelle, the 6-foot-1 Knowles returned size to Ossining’s lineup at a time when it will encounter increasingly physical play in the state playoffs.
“I feel great. I do feel great,” Knowles said. “(My ankle) is a little stiff but it’s my first time back. I’ve been working nonstop all day, every day, since the injury. So I’m doing my best.”
Knowles, who finished with seven points and 13 rebounds, played center, allowing freshman Shadeen Samuels to return to the four-position.
“It helps us a lot. It motivates us even more,” Ossining’s Andra Espinoza-Hunter said. “We can help out rebounding now. (Knowles is) 100 percent, but we want to help her out so she doesn’t injure herself again.”
Ossining advanced to face Section 9 champion Monroe-Woodbury in the state regional final Sunday at 2:45 p.m. at West Point’s Christl Arena.
The winner of that contest secures a berth in the state final four, which begins March 15 at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
The Blue Raiders never led in the contest but collapsed on Pride ballhandlers whenever they entered the paint, limiting Ossining to 34 points in the first half.
“(Horseheads) was just very physical,” UConn-bound Saniya Chong said. “I wouldn’t say they (tried to) knock me down, but they were trying to play as hard as they could because they knew it could go either way.”
Chong finished with 31 points, eight assists and five steals. Espinoza-Hunter added 15 points.
Ossining, which has scored at least 84 points in every game since Feb. 2, managed to secure a comfortable lead through a third quarter in which it outscored Horseheads 24-15.
Jen Chalk scored 12 points and Amanda Schiefen added 11 for Horseheads, which outscored the Pride 15-11 in the final quarter.
“As a whole team, they were big. We are not used to playing team’s that are all around my size,” Knowles said.
Ossining and Monroe-Woodbury, which beat Kingston 29-18 to advance to Sunday’s game, share a common opponent in Newburgh.
The Pride demolished Newburgh 102-38. Monroe-Woodbury collected 16- and 12-point wins.
Chong has now scored exactly 800 points this season, which pushes her past St. Johnsville’s Caryn Schoff (794) and her own mark from last year (799) on the New York State single-season scoring list. Chong, who now sits alone in fourth place on the list, owns three of the top five spots.
New York State single-season scoring leaders:
1. Caryn Schoff, St. Johnsville (1994-95): 892
2. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2010-11): 812
3. Stefanie Collins, Odessa-Montour (2000-01): 811
4. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2012-13): 800* — still active
5. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2011-12): 799
As for the all-time state career scoring list, Chong didn’t make any leaps Tuesday afternoon, but she did make some dents:
New York State career scoring leaders:
1. Caryn Schoff, St. Johnsville (1989-95): 3,550
2. Bethany LeSueur, Garden City (1996-01): 3,167
3. Niesha Butler, Riverdale (1992-98): 3,127
4. Beth Record, Red Jacket (1992-97): 2,900
5. Tammi Reiss, Eldred (1983-88): 2,871
6. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2009-13): 2,860* — still active