WHITE PLAINS, NY - After losing now UConn star Saniya Chong to graduation after last season, there were questions about just now good the NYCHoops.net #10 ranked Ossining girls would be this year.
Add in the loss of Andra Espinoza-Hunter to a transfer, and there truly were people who felt Ossining's reign of dominance after 3 straight years was over, but they proved their doubters wrong in running through the Section 1 Class "AA" Girls Tournament, and taking the title in convincing fashion over Mahopac, 76-49.
"We had so much doubt, people were saying that with Saniya not here we were done," junior forward Jalay Knowles said. "We weren't even going to have a winning season people said. That motivated us."
The only thing that stood in their way of a 4th straight Gold Ball was #7 seed Mahopac, and early on it was easy to tell that they just could matchup up with the depth that Ossining presented.
Knowles struggled early in with 2 fouls in the opening quarter, but it was junior guards Alicia Sanchez and Madison Strippoli who were lethal from long range, and sophomore Shadeen Samuels was a force on the inside as well with Knowles limited early.
The only bright spot of note for the Indians was senior forward Mairead Hynes, who was doing absolutely everything for Mahopac in the first half, willing them in the game with 13 points and 12 rebounds at the half, but Ossining still held a comfortable 17 point lead at the break,
The start of the 3rd saw Knowles take over scoring 13 in the quarter as the lead swelled to 28, and although Hynes kept holding her own with an impressive array of talent for Ossining, it wasn't enough as the Pride got what they wanted, a 4th straight title, and 5th in all, taking down Mahopac 76-49.
Knowles had 23 points and 7 rebounds to lead Ossining, with Samuels adding 16 points and 10 rebounds as well.
Hynes led Mahopac with a fantastic effort to finish with 19 points, 22 rebounds, and 7 assists, while junior forward Alayne Felix added 17 points as well in the loss.
Ossining head coach Dan Ricci said after the win that in a way, this win was sweeter because they proved they weren't all just about Chong, and it's now true team that is getting the job done.
The word dynasty could even be thrown out there with 4 straight Section 1 titles for Ossining, and while Ricci doesn't know if they are to that level yet, he thinks they may be getting close.
"A dynasty is what I'm hoping for," Ricci said. "It took us 12 years to get our first, and now we have won 4 straight, so obviously we are doing something right."
The title is great, and another possible State Championship is now the goal, but Knowles said she is going to enjoy this title for the moment and relish in quieting the critic.
"To prove everyone wrong is the greatest thing to me," Knowles said while clutching her Tournament MVP award. "Now we will keep it going and keep proving anyone who isn't convinced yet."