Ossining overwhelms Gates to hand them their first loss of the season. Junior forward Cierra Dillard leads the Spartans with 27 points.
Her team had just suffered their first loss of the season, in a disappointing fashion. Tara Graziadei, head coach of the Gates Chili girls basketball team wasn’t ready to declare the season a disappointment.
For Graziadei, the first words out of her mouth were gratitude following her team’s 86-69 loss to Ossining (Section 1) in the NYSPHSAA Class A finals on Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College.
The Spartans finished 24-1 overall and reached the state finals for the second time in three seasons.
“I’m proud of them, they fought back, that game could have been an 80-30 score,” Graziadei said. “A lot of teams would have given up, but my team never does. You couldn’t ask for anything for more.”
The Pride sprinted out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter and their up-tempo style proved too much for Gates to handle. Kori Bayne-Walker, the Spartans only senior, finished with 23 points in her final high school game, hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 18-8 heading into the second quarter.
Ossining pushed the pace in the second scoring 28 points to build a 46-20 lead into halftime. The lead grew to 32 in the second half but Gates outscored the Pride 23-17 in the final quarter.
Junior guard Cierra Dillard led the Spartans with 27 points.
“The kids were relaxed today and confident in our game plan,” said Dan Ricci, Ossining head coach. “We knew they had three real good basketball players so we tried to pick them up full-court. We wanted to make them work and make them put the ball on the floor.”
For the second time in three seasons Gates’ season ended in the hands of a player heading to Big East power UCONN. Pride senior guard Saniya Chong, who was recently named Gatorade New York State Girls Basketball Player of the Year, was named MVP after scoring a game-high 34 points.
Chong, who averaged 35 points-per-game this winter, hurt the Spartans off the dribble and from the behind the arc. She was honored in the third quarter after breaking the state’s single season scoring record.
Two years ago Breanna Stewart, who currently plays forward for the Huskies, led Cicero-North Syracuse past Gates in the state finals.
“I don’t think they ever got use to our style of play,” Chong said. “Because we push the ball so much, we are always running up and down, we kind of shocked them with our speed.”
Meanwhile for Gates, there was sadness as they said goodbye to Walker, who will play for Stony Brook next year. Don’t expect the mourning period to last too long though.
“We are always going to strive to be getting better, and if not the kids shouldn’t be playing basketball,” Graziadei said. “We have a lot of work to do, and then we will give it a week off and start it back up again.”