The Spartans avenge a loss to Cicero-North Syracuse from two years ago. Gates will play Ossining at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College.
For the Gates Chili girls basketball team, the season of redemption continues. One more win though, and players and coaches will can call it something else; the season of perfection.
The Spartans defeated Cicero-North Syracuse 58-47 in the NYSPHSAA Class AA semifinals on Friday at Hudson Valley Community College. Gates will play Ossining (Section 1) in the finals at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday at HVCC.
The Spartans will make their second trip to the state finals in three years. Gates avenged a loss to the Northstars in the finals two years ago on Friday.
Earlier this season, the Spartans defeated Penfield in the Class AAA finals. The Patriots defeated Gates in the AAA championship game last season.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Tara Graziadei, Spartans head coach. “CNS came out and they gave us all they had and it was a great game. Hopefully that gets us ready to play for tomorrow.”
Just like it did two years ago, Gates’ road to a state title goes through a player who will play for UCONN. The Northstars were led by Breanna Stewart, who currently plays forward for the Huskies.
The Pride are led by guard Saniya Chong, who averaged 35 points-per-game this season for the top ranked team in the state. Chong was recently named Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“It’s a great feeling to be back there,” said Cierra Dillard, Spartan junior guard, who scored 13 points in Friday’s win. “We were looking for a good game and a good matchup. It is unbelievable to be back in this atmosphere, and we know what we have to do to get the win.”
Gates made Friday’s game seem similar to their matchup earlier this season with CNS, when they defeated them 61-33 on Dec. 8. A three-point play by Kori Bayne Walker gave the Spartans a 44-26 lead late in the third quarter.
The Northstars cut the deficit to 44-37 early in the fourth following a layup by Abbey Timpano, who finished with a team-high 18 points. CNS cut the deficit to six following a layup by Sarah Bowles with 4:35 remaining, but Gates proved up to the challenge of putting them away.
Walker scored five straight points, including her fourth three-pointer of the game to put the Spartans up 53-42 with 2:45 left. The only senior on Gates’ roster led all scorers with 22 points.
“We feel like we have a lot to prove,” said Walker, who will play for Stony Brook next year. “We just have to go out there and play our game and see what we can do.”
CNS was prepared to limit the driving ability of the Spartans early, so Gates took advantage of outstanding perimeter shooting to take a 28-16 lead into halftime. Diona Johnson knocked down four of the Spartans seven three-pointers in the first half.
Page 2 of 2 - “We knew we were going to see a zone,” Graziadei said. “A lot of teams that we have faced in the past have done that to us and the one that keeps us lower in points sit in a 2-3 zone.”