WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The Ossining High School girls’ basketball team started off slowly against St. Anthony’s in the Slam Dunk Tournament on Friday.
The Pride trailed, 36-35, at the half at the Westchester County Center. But in the second half, coach Dan Ricci’s difference-maker took over.
“The difference is that we have Saniya Chong and they don’t,” Ricci said. “She’s just a phenomenal talent, once-in-a-lifetime kid who put us on her back and carried us.”
Chong helped Ossining outscore the Friars, 25-9, in the third quarter, and the Pride held on for an 80-70 win in the first round of the tournament. Ossining advances to the finals against Irvington at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Chong tied her Slam Dunk Tournament girls’ scoring record with 46 points. She had 23 in each half and was an incredible 18-for-18 from the free throw line, which shattered the previous girls’ tournament record of 10-for-10 set by Our Lady of Lourdes’ Jenna Viani in 2001.
The UConn-bound senior has scored 40 or more points in eight straight games at the County Center. After the game, Chong described the building as a second home for the Pride.
“I’m kind of used to it,” Chong said. “Me and my team, we feel that we’ve been here so many times, it’s like a feel. Our home court, a home court advantage. We’ve been on the court so many times that we just know how big it is, how to work it.”
Chong added five assists and seven rebounds in Friday’s game. She dished the ball plenty of times throughout the game but the other players could not finish some of her assists.
And Ricci said that must change, particularly because he knows his other players can shoot so well.
“We can’t rely on Saniya to score 45 points every game,” Ricci said. “Before we left for Phoenix, everybody was finishing. Right now, we’re not. We’ve got to get back to people putting the ball in the basket.”
Chong put some of the blame for those struggles on herself.
“It was a little slow. I would say not just their part but my part, also,” Chong said. “I wasn’t really into the game right off the beginning. But I think that the third quarter, we were ready. We knew what we had to do coming out for the third quarter.”
Chong has one more Slam Dunk game to play in her senior year and has one more chance to break her own scoring record. But can she do it against Irvington on Sunday?
“I think it’s possible,” Chong said with a laugh. “We’ll see.”