Gold or bust for HV girls in BCANY
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Lexi Martins and Toni Pilla were slated to start for the Hudson Valley girls squad in this weekend’s BCANY Summer Hoops Festival in Binghamton. But earlier this week, coach Dan Ricci learned neither would participate because of nagging injuries.
Still, Ricci remains confident.
“Even without them,” Ricci said. “I still think we’ll go up there and win it.”
Ricci, the Ossining head coach, and most of these Hudson Valley girls know what it takes to win gold medals at the second annual event. Last summer, the Section 1-based team dominated until the title game before losing to Central and national player of the year Breanna Stewart.
“We dominated until we faced Breanna Stewart,” Ricci said of facing the incoming UConn freshman. “It’s pretty good competition; all the best kids in New York.”
Hudson Valley, though, has clearly the most talented roster of the eight teams in the field. They’ll have potentially four players who’ll play Division I basketball next season. Only Brittni Lai of Irvington has committed, to Marist. Martins, also of Irvington, will play at Colgate.
Without the 6-foot-1 Martins, Hudson Valley loses its most talented inside player, which Ricci said will alter his style.
“She was our only player over 6-feet,” Ricci said. “We’re going to have to go from being a fast team to a really fast team.”
Let’s take a look at the rest of the Hudson Valley roster as play begins on Friday afternoon in Binghamton:
Hudson Valley squad breakdown:
Calli Balfour, John Jay-East Fishkill: According to Ricci, Balfour may be the best athlete on the team given her 5-foot-10 size and quickness. She can play in the post and bring the ball up the court against the press, and seems to excel with such strong talent around her.
Breanna Celaj, Briarcliff: The versatility of the 5-8 senior is invaluable on a team of players where positions are pretty defined. Celaj can play almost anywhere on the court because she can shoot, handle the ball, rebound and defend. She’ll be an important spark off the bench.
Saniya Chong, Ossining: Oh yeah, she’s on the roster. Considering she’s the best player in the history of Section 1 basketball, she should fair well in this event. Look for her to be a distributor on this team yet still lead the squad in scoring.
Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Ossining: Only a rising eighth-grader, Espinoza-Hunter will look to make her first mark around the state. Like on Ossining, Espinoza-Hunter will be the main benefactor of Chong’s brilliance. Look for the 5-10 guard to be waiting behind the 3-point line. Said Ricci: “I wouldn’t be shocked if scored 15-18 points per game, all on 3s.”
Danielle Gervacio, Ossining: Another player from the state semifinals squad, Gervacio will see time off the bench at point guard. She brings tremendous energy and solid defense.
Maia Hood, Hamilton: The explosive senior guard is such a brutal matchup, especially playing alongside Chong. Hood is adept at getting to the basket and finishing around the rim, and will help pick up the slack with Martins out.
Brittni Lai, Irvington: The majority of the scoring on this team will come from Chong and Lai, who are technically point guards. Lai, a 5-6 senior headed to Marist, is a gifted play-maker with a smooth stroke from behind the 3-point line. Defensively, no opposing player will match her intensity.
Kristen McLaughlin, Tappan Zee: The rising junior has been very productive in workouts leading up to the game and is poised for a big weekend. She’s strong defensively and will play on the wing and in the paint, and her length at 5-foot-11 will be incredibly valuable.
Destini Walker, Ossining: The truest post scorer on the roster, Walker is primed for a huge tournament. The 5-11 rising sophomore is a strong interior defender and above-average defender. While she won’t be relied on to score, look for her to put up points in clean-up duties.
Jasmine Robinson, Hamilton: The talented point guard will likely be used in both guard positions. Robinson, a 5-4 rising senior, will bring plenty of defensive energy and thrive setting up all the talent around her.
Hudson Valley Schedule
Friday, 6:30 p.m. vs. Rochester
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. vs. Suffolk
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Buffalo
Sunday, TBA Medal rounds
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com