We will be posting our state semifinal previews in the order that the Section 1 teams will be playing. Up first is Irvington. Ossining and Hamilton previews to follow.
By Mike Zacchio
She has more than 1,700 career points and better than 1,300 rebounds. She’s won three Section 1 tournament MVP awards and has helped lead Irvington to three state titles. She is the two-time defending state Class B player of the year, and is a finalist for the Miss New York Basketball award. But her last name isn’t Chong, so she’s often overlooked.
Irvington senior Lexi Martins is in the final stages of a high school career that, if played in any other period, would be one of the most talked about in the state. But with UConn-bound all-American Saniya Chong playing just up the road in Ossining, Martins often doesn’t get the respect her game has earned.
“I think it’s just a life situation,” said Martins, who has played with Chong on various summer teams. “(Saniya) really is an awesome person; her personality doesn’t even allow you to think, ‘Oh my gosh, why does she get as much (attention) as she does?’ She plays awesome, she’s an awesome person, and an awesome teammate.”
Martins is making her fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament, which begins Friday at 10 a.m. when Irvington (21-2) takes on Oneonta in a Class B state semifinal at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. Martins said that the thrill of one last chase has given her an extra boost this postseason.
In six games since the start of the Section 1 tournament, Martins is averaging 25.0 points and 17.3 rebounds, including 20-20 performances in three of the last four.
“Team-wise, we’ve been playing really good basketball and I think that’s really corresponding to me being able to play well as well,” she said.
The Lehigh-bound center/forward said that because she and fellow senior starters Alyssa DiCampli, Brittni Lai and Ryan McMahon are the veterans of the team, the pressure is on them more than ever.
“Being our senior years, in some ways we get to reap the glory of it … but on the contrary, if we were to lose on Friday, it all falls on our backs because we’re the seniors,” she said.
Since Martins joined the team as a freshman the Bulldogs have posted a 122-10 record.
With Martins, DiCampli, and Laurilyn Gelhardi, the Bulldogs will bring plenty of height and strength to Troy this weekend. Irvington will also bring its share of speed and shooting thanks to Lai, McMahon, and Lauren Chafizadeh.
Class B semifinal
Irvington (21-2) vs. Oneonta (20-1)
When: Friday at 10 a.m.
Where: Hudson Valley Community College, Troy
Key players: Irvington — Brittni Lai, Sr., G; Lexi Martins, Sr., F; Alyssa DiCampli, Sr.,F; Oneonta — Mariah Ruff, Jr., G; Kelsey Baker, Sr., F; Natalie Vanderlaan-Meyering, Sr., C.
Outlook: Friday’s semifinal will be a rematch of the 2010 Class B state championship, in which Irvington won handily, 54-33. Irvington is ranked No. 1 and Oneonta No. 2 by the New York State Sportswriters Association and have a common opponent in Pearl River (18-3). The Yellowjackets beat the Pirates 58-46, and the Bulldogs took care of their in-section foes, 65-49.
What’s next: The winner of this game will face either Section 5’s Waterloo (22-1) or Section 10’s Salmon River (19-4) in the state championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. Waterloo and Salmon River are ranked Nos. 4 and 5 in the state, respectively.