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Saniya Chong has played well on a lot of basketball courts in her career. She’s dominated opponents both at home and on the road, but one venue has continually sparked Chong to have some of the better performances of her career: the Westchester County Center.
In Ossining’s 80-70 win over St. Anthony’s in the first round of the Slam Dunk tournament on Friday, Chong proved again that she dominates at the County Center.
The UConn-commit reached the 40-point milestone for the fourth time in her career, tying her own tournament record of 46 points. Chong now has the top three women’s single game point totals — 46, 46 and 40 — in the Slam Dunk tournament.
“I think I just have that home feeling (at the County Center),” Chong said. “Not just me, our whole team. We’ve been here so many times, so it’s almost like our home court.”
Chong also had nine rebounds, five assists and four steals and was 18-for-18 from the line. She dominated early in the game, scoring 14 points in the first quarter.
“(The County Center) is a home for Saniya, that’s for sure,” joked Ossining coach Dan Ricci. “She’s on a different level. People don’t get it. They don’t understand: she’s a once in a lifetime kid. She’s going to UConn and (Huskies coach) Geno (Auriemma) doesn’t make many mistakes.”
Sophomore Jalay Knowles had a strong game to support Chong, posting 15 points, 14 rebounds and two steals. Knowles played tough on defense, too, drawing charges and keeping St. Anthony off the offensive glass when it mattered.
Ossining (5-3) needed the win against the tough Friars squad as it had just lost three games in Phoenix, Arizona at the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions.
The Pride lost to the No. 3 team in the country, Mater Dei (CA), in the first round, the No. 19 team in the country, Dr. Phillips (FL), in the second round, and Las Vegas Centennial (NV) in the third round. Mater Dei went on to beat the top-ranked team in the country, St. Mary’s (AZ), and then took home the championship.
“Phoenix really helped us,” Knowles said. “It helped Saniya a lot playing against girls she’ll play at UConn next year, and it helped the rest of us playing against such great competition. We hadn’t lost in the regular season last year so it was a shock to lose three down there. But the experience we got made us a better team.”
Against St. Anthony's, Ossining eighth-grader Andra Espinoza-Hunter had seven points, while freshman Shadeen Samuels added six points and nine rebounds. Senior Danielle Gervacio had five assists and made big plays down the stretch.
St. Anthony’s (3-3) played well early and led 36-35 at the half, but the Friars just couldn’t contain Chong. They cut it to an eight-point game with less than three minutes remaining, but Chong finished the game off at the line.
“I would, unfortunately, have to agree that Chong was the difference in the game,” St. Anthony’s coach Ken Parham said. “Saniya is pretty special. She’s very hard to guard and after watching her on tape, she’s so much faster (in person). With her speed and her range and how she shoots the basketball, it’s kind of unfair.
“We never roll over,” Parham continued. “That’s not acceptable. We battled, we competed and we worked real hard, but we came up a little short. (Ossining) is good. They’re very good.”
Kalifa Davy had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, while Rebecca Musgrove had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Chastity Taylor had 12 points and Charise Wilson had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. Tyla Parham had eight points and four steals and Johanna Impellizeri added six points and six rebounds.
St. Anthony’s will face Long Island Lutheran in the consolation game on Sunday at 11 a.m., while Ossining faces rival Irvington at 5 p.m. in the championship. Ossining and Irvington are familiar foes and will play each other again later in the season.
“We’ll have to play better defense (against Irvington),” Chong said. “If we can stay in front of (Irvington stars) Brittni Lai and Lexi Martins, and we rebound, I think we should be fine.”