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Final Four-Bound Ossining Girls Erase Preseason Doubts

The team, which graduated 10 seniors, said it was motivated to prove its critics wrong. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
The Ossining girls basketball team is in the state final four for the third year in a row. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Coach Dan Ricci praised the girls for being good basketball players and good role models. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

OSSINING, N.Y. -- The Ossining High School girls varsity basketball team has spent the entire season proving the critics wrong.

The team is headed to Troy on Friday to participate in the Class AA final four, hoping to repeat as state champions. This is the third year in a row Ossining has made the final four.

Many people were down on Ossining's chances at the start of the season. The team graduated 10 seniors from last years squad including star Saniya Chong, who now plays at UConn.

"These kids have been incredible," coach Dan Ricci said. "We have been getting better everyday. We want to win state."

Ricci said praised his team for being role models in the community and an inspiration to young girls throughout Ossining. He said recently they helped run a program teaching disabled kids how to play basketball.

"They are great kids and great basketball players," Ricci said.

Ricci said he is looking to Jalay Knowles, Shadeen Samuels and Stefanie Svoboda to help lead Ossining to victory, though he said he has a deep team. He said his team has not been distracted by the media attention they have received.

"They are used to it," Ricci said. "That's what happens when you're successful. They are humble."

Svoboda, a junior guard, said it was exciting to to go back to the final four.

"It's really cool," Svoboda said. "Not a lot of people can say they have played in a final four. We have great defense and we work really hard in practice."

Abby Squirrell, a junior guard/center, said she was pumped to be in the final four.

"I want to win it all," Squirrell said. "We have nothing to lose."

Squirrell said the doubters at the start of the season was a big motivator for her and her teammates.

"We knew what we were capable of if we worked hard," Squirrell said. "We go so hard in practice. Our second string is better than most team's first string."

Samuels said it was an honor to be in the final four and that she loves her teammates.

"We are so close," Samuels said. "We hang out all  year round."

Ossining will face Gates Chili Friday at 6:15.

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