Ossining’s Griffin in Line with Chong as Best in Section 1 History
The 44 on her chest is symbolic of the firepower Ossining junior forward Aubrey Griffin brings to her shooting range each and every day. In this day and age of gun control, there was nothing stopping the 44-Special from going off in Ossining’s 75-63 Section 1 Class AA championship win at Pace University last Saturday when Griffin’s state-ranked (No.5) Pride (21-3) claimed their eighth consecutive gold ball behind a 46-point effort from the game’s MVP.
Ossining Coach Dan Ricci went so far as to admit what was once unthinkable.
“She is now in the category with Saniya (Chong),” Ricci said of Griffin, comparing her to Ossining’s all-time great and, perhaps, the best to ever play in Section 1. “A hundred percent, she’s right there with her. Man, 46 points, that’s crazy. Down nine at the half, she put the team on her shoulders and distributed the ball, too. She was not selfish, she probably led us in assists, too.”
Griffin, as humble as the day is long despite averaging a gaudy 34.5 PPG, 10 RPG, 3.5 APG and 3.5 steals for the tourney, was pretty chill afterward, and took the compliment in stride as the gleeful Pride danced about her.
“Saniya was and still is a role model for me,” Griffin said of the former UConn and current WNBA star. “It’s an honor to be compared to her, I don’t know what to say.”
There’s nothing you can say that wasn’t already said, my dear, except to add that you are, indeed, the most complete player in the history of Section 1 that this scribe as ever seen in the 30 years aboard the hoops circuit.
Ossining will have a bye into the Class AA state regional final, where it will play the Section 4/Section 9 winner on Friday at 6:30 p.m. A victory will send Ossining to the state semifinals for unprecedented seventh-straight year; thanks to Coach Ricci and Chong and Griffin, two of the best to ever lace ’em up, and one of the best coaches in state history…
At least for one year, until we get back at it 2019, I will live with the self-dubbed label of #CountyCenterMush. Last Monday and Tuesday, five local teams we cover in the NWE/Putnam Examiners – the Putnam Valley boys and girls, Hen Hud and Panas boys and the Somers girls — competed at the fabled Westchester County Center, despite the off-court hoopla that nearly deprived our student athletes of the splendid experience Section 1 hoopers have known since 1933. All five teams, which I was inwardly pulling for (a happy recap makes for happy readers), lost; thus the #CountyCenterMush hashtag.
Hey, at least they got to live out their dreams by burning up and down the County Center hardwood, but no photojournalists goes in there expecting 0-for-5 and nothing but hangdogs, especially the agony we witnessed from the second-seeded Lady Tuskers, the former Section 1 Class A champions who were rocked to their collective core by the buzzer-beating prowess of No.3 Rye’s Amanda Latkany, who banked home the game-winning shot with 0.3 seconds left for the 50-49 win.
The mayhem that ensued saw the Garnets dancing in delight while Somers dined on despair, despite advancing to the state semis last year and returning the core of the team. So, you can only imagine the tears in Tusker Coach Marc Hattem’s locker room afterward.
“I told the girls it’s not on them,” the second-year Tusker boss said. “They did what they needed to do. They fought back. They played together. We win together, lose together. And I told my seniors how much I respect them, care for them and how special they made the last two years. My heart breaks for those kids, but November will be here again, man, and we’ll get back at it. We have a fun group coming back next year, so we’ll start playing again this summer.”
Indeed, they do…
It was just an hour-and-a-half before Somers felt the pain, which Hen Hud did, too. Having not been near the County Center stage since 1991, Coach Jordan Hirsch’s fourth-seeded Sailors found the stage too big in a 48-40 loss to No.8 Ardsley. There’s simply too much talent on the Sailor squad to score just 40 points, and this senior-laden squad would be the first to own up.
“At least we don’t have to hear about 1991 anymore,” Hen Hud Coach Jordan Hirsch joked.
No, coach, you don’t, and I don’t have to write it, either; much as I loved the ol’ gang from ’91…
Similarly, No.2 Walter Panas ended the hollow Tuesday triple-header by suffering an emotional 61-54 setback at the hands of No.6 Tappan Zee. Thusly, I will miss seeing the Killer B’s – senior Brandon Hodge and Brandon Ramos – working in tandem like few before them ever have at Panas. It was especially painful to see them walk off unfulfilled as many folks expected a second title from the Panthers since 2014…
It wasn’t much better the day before when both PV squads went down in a glower of gloom and doom; the PV girls falling, 44-34, at the hands of No.2 Briarcliff and the boys dropping a 55-47 decision to No.4 Blind Brook, each losing to the eventual Class B runner-ups.
The good news for PV is they are chock-full-of-youth and both teams should both be back next season in an effort to win the first gold ball in the history of either program. As a guy who is pretty close to the boys’ program, it’s getting tougher and tougher to come down to County Center and see the Tigers fail there. Getting to the County Center is rough, and PV has been there five of the last six years (no small accomplishment), but the 2-5 record at the Mecca is even rougher; something must change…
And speaking of the Mecca, I love the cozy confines of the Westchester County Center and the assemblage of the usual suspects that assist in putting on this wonderful spectacle since 1933. There’s probably nothing like it in NYS and our student athletes deserve the opportunity to play there in front of family and fans.
That said, Pace University, though second fiddle in stature, was a terrific alternative. The folks at Pace were fan-friendly, the court is extremely well lit and great for shooting photos, the campus is fairly centralized to the four counties in Section 1, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. In a perfect world, though, the Westchester County Center will upgrade its poorly lit facility, the Section 1 Executive Committee (Jen Simmons and James Mackin, in particular) will get on the same page with the county officials, the AD’s, coaches and volunteers who run the show, and we’ll be back there next year #OneBigHappyFamily. Bygones must be bygones for the sake of our kids, y’all!
If not, Pace is a great place, nothing to sneeze at.