By Phil Terrigno
email@example.com (Photo Credit – Frank Becerra Jr./ The Journal News)
ALBANY The Ossining Pride watched as Bishop Ford strutted onto the Times Union Center hardwood and claimed its half of the court during warmups before the floor was clear from the previous game.
Ossining’s opponent had reason to be confident — they survived the New York City Catholic high school gauntlet without head coach Mike Toro, who was suspended in February.
Just a week removed from claiming the first girls basketball state title in school history, Ossining waited patiently for tip-off even as the Falcons chanted their embattled coach’s name before the Class AA Federation Tournament of Champions final.
On this night, the usual breakneck speed that led the Pride (22-5) to so many lopsided victories would not be enough to overcome a committed Bishop Ford (26-7) team in a 75-60 loss that deprived Ossining the chance to be the first area girls team to win the Class AA Federation title.
“(Bishop Ford) had the bigger mindset today, coming out here and going after every loose ball,” UConn-bound Saniya Chong said. “Today, we just had a really bad game. As a whole and especially me.”
Chong finished with 26 points, seven assists, six rebounds and an uncharacteristic 12 turnovers, giving her a Section 1 record 2,988 points in four varsity seasons; fourth on the all-time state list.
A Chong 3-pointer cut the Bishop Ford lead to 10 points, 57-67, with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter but Ossining would get no closer for the rest of the game.
Ossining hadn’t lost since a Feb. 2 decision to Spring-Ford (PA).
“It feels a little awkward (to lose) but at the same time, we have to keep our heads up,” sophomore Jalay Knowles said. “We won the state championship and yeah, we wanted the win bad, but (Bishop Ford) went for it.”
The supplemental players who were this posteason were limited in this contest as Andra Espinoza-Hunter was the only other Pride player to score in double digits with 10 points.
Aaliyah Jones scored 25 points for Bishop Ford, who lost Toro and two other school officials during an investigation into whether or not they provided players with improper financial benefits.
Bishop Ford extended its 40-38 halftime lead with a 6-0 run to open the third quarter.
Two baskets from Chong closed the gap to four points but Bishop Ford scored on its next three possessions to take a 52-44 advantage.
Giolibeth Perez nailed a 3-pointer and Jill Conroy added a layup in the final minute of the third quarter to give the Falcons a 60-46 lead.
Ossining, who finished 22-for-69 from the field, had 24 turnovers and managed four fast break points.– – – -
“It’s been an amazing season even though we came out with the loss today. We had a long lasting season with the girls. We made so many accomplishments as one team. We made history.” – Saniya Chong
“It was a special game but I really wasn’t thinking about (3,000) points at all. I knew that I came short but I knew I had a really bad game.” – Chong
“It was an off day. We have days at are one. Kat (Polletta) had big shots and she played hard. So did Alex (Cristello). Andra played hard even though the wasn’t hitting them.” – Jalay Knowles
On his team’s effort:
“We had a lot of turnovers that we don’t normally have. I saw Saniya turn over the ball more than i’ve ever seen her turn it over. I felt like Bishop Ford was playing with a purpose and we were playing like we didnt want to be here.” – Dan Ricci
On his younger, returning players:
“Jalay gave it everything she had. Shadeen is still trying to get through her injuries. Andra had a decent game. It’s a growing experience for us again. It’s another step that we gotta make.” – coach Dan Ricci
On the season as a whole:
“We had a great group of kids. It was a lot of fun. It didn’t end the way I wanted it to but a state championship is a state championship.”