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Outside of the Alexander Hamilton community, no one really thought Ossining’s matchup with the Red Raiders would be close. Yes, Hamilton entered as the No. 1 Class C team in the state. But the Pride — ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AA — boasted the most accomplished player in the history Section 1.
It was almost the upset of the year. Instead, it was just the same old story.
Saniya Chong scored 24 of her game-high 43 points in the fourth quarter to help Ossining defeat the Red Raiders, 88-79, on the road Wednesday night. Hamilton led 61-57 after the third quarter and had a five-point lead early in the fourth, but the Pride ended the game on an 18-9 run to take home the win. It marked the Pride's 27th straight victory against Section 1 opponents.
“It was an amazing game,” said Chong, who will play at UConn next year. “The atmosphere of the game was really exciting. We knew there was going to be a big crowd and we couldn’t let it get to us. I wouldn’t say I had no doubts (that we could lose), but I knew my team would never give up. Coming out in the second half, I think we were ready to play.”
Chong also finished with nine assists and eight rebounds and moved into second on the all-time Section 1 scoring list when she tallied her 28th point in the fourth quarter. Chong passed Peekskill’s Sheila Wagner (1981-1986), who went on to play at Georgia Tech and finished her storied high school career with 2,476 points. Chong now has 2,492 points and needs 170 points to break the all-time record of 2,662 held by FDR-Hyde Park’s Karen O’Connor.
Despite Chong’s big night, Ossining struggled to score at times and uncharacteristically shot 6-for-32 (19%) from behind the 3-point line.
“It was a different kind of atmosphere; very close and a big crowd,” Ossining coach Dan Ricci said. “I give all the credit to Hamilton. They played their hearts out. They were a little undermanned but they played really well.
"This was (Hamilton's) championship. The No. 1-ranked AA school, they knew this was their season. They’re not going to lose again the rest of the year. They gave it everything they had. Thank God we got it together at the end. But (Chong) is just the best player around. She’s just a tremendous athlete and a tremendous player.”
Ossining got a huge boost from sophomore Jalay Knowles. Knowles went head-to-head with Hamilton star Maia Hood and held her own for the majority of the game. She finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, and did not miss a shot or a free throw in the game.
“We had a rough game, but we pulled through,” Knowles said. “(Hamilton) has some excellent players. I knew coming into the game this wasn’t going to be easy. We were down (for a while) and we really needed to pick it up and come through. That’s what we ended up doing. It didn’t take one person to win this game. We all went in and gave our best.”
Freshman Shadeen Samuels added five points and 12 rebounds and Kathryn Polletta had six points.
Hamilton came up just short in the end. Tiffany Corselli was spectacular in the loss, posting 29 points, five assists and three rebounds. She was 6-for-11 from behind the arc, and single-handedly battled with Chong at times.
“I think overall we were ready to play,” Hamilton coach Benjamin Carter said. “The real crucial possessions we didn’t get good shots and I think Ossining was a little more used to being in those situations and made the proper decisions. But we take pride in this game. What Ossining has done the last decade made this game a real challenge for us because we wanted to show we belong even though we’re a C school.”
Hood also played one of the best games of her career, posting 29 points and 14 rebounds. Hood now has 965 career rebounds and needs 35 to reach 1,000. She already has her 1,000th career point and should go down as one of few to reach both milestones later this year.
Jasmine Robinson had 10 points and four rebounds in the loss and Kali Gill had five points, six rebounds and four steals.
“It was an intense game so we really came out with our best,” Hood said. “They started to score (more at the end) and we just ran out of gas. It’s going to be a good memory to say that we played against one of the best in Section 1 who’s going to UConn. All of our friends and our families were here to support us and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Email Jordan Griffith at JGriffit@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_JGriffith