(Daniella Ferrao and Kat Polletta celebrate the Pride’s 79-50 win — John Meore/The Journal News)
By Phil Terrigno
WEST POINT – At first, Saniya Chong was approached by a single, smiling Monroe-Woodbury player asking for a photo after Ossining’s 79-50 regional final win.
Within moments, nearly the entire Crusaders squad engulfed the UConn-bound senior in a tight huddle as parents frantically snapped pictures.
“It says a lot about her as a person, she’s not a selfish kid and she’s not a cocky kid,” Ossining coach Dan Ricci said. “(Other players) out there see that. Some of the adults out there don’t get it. She’ll make a big play and she doesn’t showboat.”
It also says that the Crusaders were enamored after being on the receiving end of a 41-point, eight steal and six assist barrage from Chong, who now sits in fourth place on New York State’s all-time girls basketball scoring list with 2,901 points.
“I just play as hard as I can each and every game,” Chong said. “Usually, when the game is over and I sit down, coach (Ricci) tells me. Like he told me I had 2,901 points. It’s a good feeling.”
Ossining advanced to the Class AA state semifinals and will face Section 11’s Sachem East at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy Friday at 6:15 p.m.
“We’re happy about this win and we’re happy about the regional championship but we really just went and tried to get back to the state final four,” Ossining senior Danielle Gervacio said.
The Crusaders enjoyed a few minutes of near parity when they trailed 11-8 midway through the first quarter before the Pride closed the period on a 16-3 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Chong, Alex Cristello and Andra Espinoza-Hunter.
Monroe-Woodbury captured the Section 9 title with a 29-18 win over Kingston, a point total that Ossining exceeded less than a minute into the second quarter.
With her nine 3-pointers, Chong has 102 this year and broke the NYSPHSAA single-season record of 100 3-pointers she set last season.
Espinoza-Hunter finished with 12 points while Jalay Knowles and Madison Strippoli added nine and eight points, respectively.
Freshman Shadeen Samuels did not play due to a knee contusion she suffered in the Pride’s regional semifinal win against Horseheads on March 5.
Samuels had her kneecap drained and Ricci expects the forward to be available Friday.
“Abby Squirrell came off the bench and Madison Strippolli, both backup kids, were playing for Shadeen Samuels and also a not 100 percent Jalay Knowles,” Ricci said. “We need those kids to go in and give us a few minutes here and a few minutes there.”
With her 41 points scored, Saniya Chong also moved into second place on the New York all-time single-season scoring list, jumping Stafanie Collins of Odessa-Montour, and her own mark set in the 2010-11 season. Chong is now just 52 points shy of becoming the state’s greatest single-season girls basketball scorer of all-time. Here’s a look at the updated list:
New York State single-season scoring leaders:
1. Caryn Schoff, St. Johnsville (1994-95): 892
2. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2012-13): 841* — still active
3. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2010-11): 812
4. Stefanie Collins, Odessa-Montour (2000-01): 811
5. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2011-12): 799
As for the all-time state career scoring list, this will likely be the last stop for Chong, who will need to average over 56 points per game the rest of the way to own a top three spot, and that’s assuming Ossining doesn’t have a bye in the semifinals of the Federation tournament. However, becoming just the fourth female to ever join the 3,000-point club wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize:
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. Saniya Chong, Ossining (2009-13): 2,901* — still active
5. Beth Record, Red Jacket (1992-97): 2,900