Ossining lost Parade Magazine’s National Girls Player of the Year to graduation along with some other talented players from last year’s New York state public schools Class AA champions.
With Saniya Chong now at UConn, the Pride has continued to roll, posting a 21-2 record and dismantling Kingston, 77-47, on Tuesday in a regional semifinal to earn a state quarterfinal berth against Horseheads.
They meet at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Binghamton University Events Center. Section 1 champion Ossining is ranked third in Class AA and Horseheads (16-3) is 11th.
“Very fast, very tall, very aggressive,” Horseheads coach Andy Scott said of the Pride. “They get after it defensively and they run very quick offensively. They’re either going to try and get inside or hit a quick three and try and rebound the ball.”
Last year Ossining led the whole way in a 69-49 victory over Horseheads in a regional at the College of New Rochelle.
The Blue Raiders have played one game since Feb. 14 but feel more ready than rusty.
“We’re very excited because we were here last year and this year we feel like we have a very good chance,” Horseheads junior forward Amanda Schiefen said. “We’ve been preparing really hard and we definitely really want to win.”
Scott said three things work in his team’s favor today:
One is the strength of the Raiders’ schedule this season, including seven games against state-ranked teams and four meetings against sectional champions.
Second, there’s a comfort level playing close to home in an arena where Horseheads crushed Owego, 59-26, in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference Tournament final Feb. 14.
Finally, he simply believes in a team with four senior starters and a junior who is a Division I recruit in Schiefen.
“I think with this group of seniors we have now and Amanda that start, they’re winners,” Scott said. “They’ve proven everyone wrong. Everyone thought we were going to be mediocre, losing the seniors and Marlea (Nolan) this year. They’ve gone out there and they’ve taken it personal and they’ve done nice some nice things. I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished so far and I hope to see them do one more goal at the minimum.”
Nolan, one of the starters last season, was lost to a torn ACL suffered during volleyball season.
Horseheads’ top two scorers are Schiefen at 14 points per game and senior guard Ellie Leszyk at 13.2 per contest. Senior guard Jen LaViola averages 9.8 points.
During practice this week, Scott used five-on-10 drills to try to give a sense of the defensive pressure the Raiders will see from the Pride.
Horseheads counters with a defense of its own that can wreak havoc. The Raiders give up only 37 points per game and followed their win over Owego with a 62-25 victory over Union-Endicott on Feb. 27 in the sectional final.
“We try to get the other team out of their comfort zone so then we can get steals and layups and keep the pressure on until coach tells us to pull it off,” Leszyk said.