NEW YORK — During her high school years at Ossining, Saniya Chong had some memorable, high-scoring nights. She had performances that other players in Section 1 have never even sniffed, and she recorded them often.
There was the 61-point performance in a Class AA quarterfinal at the Westchester County Center — as a sophomore. There was the 40-point performance against Blind Brook last February, in which she broke the section’s all-time girls scoring record and state career 3-pointers record on the same shot. And there were countless more.
But among the high-scoring, record-breaking displays she’s had on the court, one of the most memorable will be Sunday — an afternoon when Chong (pictured right), who racked up nearly 3,000 points during her high school career, scored just two free throws.
In the closing minute of an 80-47 win over the University of California, the Connecticut freshman sank two shots from the line at Madison Square Garden in front of hundreds of local supporters who came to see her play in the Maggie Dixon Classic.
“Playing at MSG was a great opportunity for me,” Chong said. “When it was all said and done, looking back at it, I was amazed and honored to play somewhere with so much history. I got a chance to play at a place where legends were showcased, which was really cool.”
Ossining coach Dan Ricci bought 100 tickets for fans to come see his former star play for the top-ranked reigning national champions at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” including his state-championship squad from last season and his current roster.
Looking forward to Sunday. Bought 100 tix for Uconn game at MSG to see Saniya at the Mecca Madison Square Garden.
— Dan Ricci (@CoachRicOHS) December 20, 2013
Other Section 1 alums in attendance included Irvington’s Lexi Martins and Albertus Magnus’ Maeve Parahus, who are both playing at the Division I level at Lehigh and Manhattan, respectively. Current high school standouts Kelly Guarino and Ryan Doherty of Albertus Magnus also showed, as well as Ardsley’s Casey Foley and the rest of the girls’ AAU team.
Include Cal coach and Scarsdale alumna Lindsay Gottlieb and that’s one more local in the Garden.
“We scheduled this game for a lot of reasons,” Gottlieb said after the game, part of a doubleheader that honors the former Army women’s basketball coach who died of a heart ailment at the age of 28. “Maggie Dixon was a friend of mine, and to be able to take part in a tournament that honors her is something special.”
Sophomore Breanna Stewart (pictured above, 30) finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds for top-ranked UConn, tying her career high for points as well as the single-game tournament record. The Cicero-North Syracuse alumna was victorious over Chong’s Ossining squad two years ago in the Class AA state semifinals.
Chong was one of four New York-born Huskies who were returning for a homecoming of sorts. Being back home, many of them soaked in every minute of New York City they could.
“Other than (Stewart), the rest of them were out at Times Square until 3 in the morning,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, joking. “We picked them up on the way to the game (Sunday).”
Here’s my video recap from the game:
Featured image photo credit: Doug Minchillo/AP
Chong dribbling credit: Doug Minchillo/AP
Opening tip-off photo credit: Mike Zacchio/The Journal News