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Ossining's Chong Taking Stardom in Stride

OSSINING, N.Y. – Saniya Chong says the pressure to become the first Ossining girls basketball team to win a state championship is not that bad.

“It’s a great feeling,” Chong, 16, said. “I think anyone would want to have the opportunity that I have and that our team has.”

Chong and the Ossining Pride take the court Friday night for a semifinal game at 8 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. The state and national spotlight will be on the entire team this weekend. For Chong, who recently scored her 2,000th point , she’s spent a lot of time in the last few weeks in that spotlight already. She was recently featured on SportsIllustrated.com , CBS Sports and the Wall Street Journal . But the pressure could be a lot worse, she said.

“Taking a test in school, there’s a lot more pressure with not knowing the score,” Chong said Wednesday during practice. “With taking a test, you’re constantly worried about did I fail or did I pass or did I get the grade I wanted. But playing basketball, you always know what the score is.”

Saniya added that the Ossining community has been “very supportive” of her and the team.

The team was recently named a New York State Scholar Athlete Team by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. While most people outside of the school district know her on the court, Chong said it hasn’t affected her personal or academic life.

“It’s really not that bad juggling them both together because they give us the time we need. It’s not like we’re practicing for six or eight hours a day,” Chong said.

Coach Dan Ricci said this week that he’s proud of the girls’ accomplishments on and off the court.

“A lot of teams get that Scholar Athlete Team award but not a lot of teams that go to states get it,” Ricci said. “It’s not just a great team on the court but it’s a great team in the classroom.”

Ricci said he knows what’s at stake in Friday’s game, but said there’s no pressure on the team.

“We have no seniors so they know they’ve made it further than last year’s team and have made it to the state final four for the second time in school history (2004),” Ricci said. “We’d like to be the first team from Ossining to win a state championship but if we don’t, they’re all coming back next year to give it another shot. There’s nothing to lose.”

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