Girls Hoops Notebook By Tony Pinciaro

Putnam Valley G Kelli Venezia splits Yorktown’s Ashley Zeolla (L) and Mackenzie Merson in Tigers’ touney win over Huskers Saturday. Tigers went on to defeat Clarkstown North for tourney title Ossining’s Griffin Never Blinked Despite Hardship

Aubrey Griffin took a mature approach to a serious knee injury, which sidelined her for her sophomore year on the basketball court.

“In the beginning, it was hard, but it taught me how to be mentally stronger,” said the sensational Ossining junior. “I couldn’t dwell on it and focus on being hurt. Instead, I had to focus on getting better and helping the team.”

Griffin is showing no ill-effects of the torn anterior cruciate ligament as she is averaging a team-leading 27.1 points per game. She is also averaging 7.9 rebounds and 4.1 steals a game for the 10-3 Pride, the seven-time defending Section 1 Class AA champs.

Griffin recently joined an elite girls’ basketball club, registering her 1,000 varsity point in a recent victory over Kennedy Catholic.

Even though Griffin was unable to play her sophomore year, she remained an integral member of the team. Griffin felt she became more focused while watching games and practices, and she was an unofficial assistant coach.

“It showed me a different way the game was played, and I was able to understand the game even more,” Griffin said. “I tried to help as much as I could. If a teammate needed motivation or was down, at times, during a game, I would talk to them and cheer them on.”

Once Griffin received medical clearance to return, she was counting down the days until practice began last November.

“I was really excited that I was able to play again, and get back on the court and play with my teammates again because I missed playing with them,” Griffin said.

Ossining Coach Dan Ricci was equally happy to see Griffin back.

“Aubrey is a tremendous athlete who helps us get easy baskets,” Ricci said. “Aubrey looks like she was never injured.”

It is only natural for an athlete, returning from a serious injury, to be a somewhat tentative, at first. Griffin was cautious, but didn’t allow herself to think about it. Instead, Griffin approached her return with the same tenacity she demonstrates on the court.

“I just said to myself that I was back and I did the therapy I needed to do and my knee is stronger now,” Griffin said. “I felt comfortable a couple of games into the season because I’m not scared to hurt my knee. I’m going out and playing my hardest.”

Griffin was on the verge of collecting her 1,000th varsity point, but was not aware of it. She thought she was nowhere near the milestone because she missed last year. However, when she made a driving layup in the 92-58 win over Kennedy Catholic, the game was stopped and Ricci presented her with the ball.

“It means a lot but I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without my teammates,” Griffin said. “My teammates always find a way of passing the ball me when I’m open.”

Griffin filled out the stat sheet with 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Kailah Harris added 18 points and seven rebounds, Julia Iorio netted 16 points and Kelsey Quain finished with 15 points. Jaida Strippoli handed out 10 assists.

Griffin scored a game-high 32 points in an 84-47 win over 2017 Section 1 Class A champion SOMERS. She also had 13 rebounds and five steals. Harris had 22 points and 15 rebounds and Strippoli added 11 points and six assists.

Ossining owns a three-game winning streak and played South Shore of Brooklyn, Monday. Griffin said Ossining has hiked the intensity level on defense during this current stretch.

“Coach Ricci said that we needed to step up and play Ossining basketball,” Griffin said. “We’ve been working on defense, defense, and defense in practice because that’s what wins games.”

A young PUTNAM VALLEY team continued its excellent play, sweeping North Salem, 59-20, Dobbs Ferry, 39-30, and Yorktown 43-32, improving to 7-1.

Against YORKTOWN (3-7), in the Huskers’ tournament, Kelli Venezia drained a game-high 20 points to lead the Tigers, who advanced to yesterday’s tournament championship.

Putnam Valley’s defense has been stifling through seven games, yielding less than 35 points per game.

“We struggled offensively against Dobbs Ferry,” PV boss Kristi Dini said, “and it showed, as our last game was December 21, but we played great defense. They’re a good team and it was a great battle.

“We really moved the ball well against North Salem, but our defense was really tough. North Salem only had eight points at halftime.”

Dini is pleased with her team’s defensive approach, whether in practice or games.

“The girls buy in and work extremely hard in practice breaking down every component of man defense and putting it all together,” Dini said.

Dora Rippon led the way with 17 points and 12 rebounds against Dobbs Ferry. She then poured in 26 points against North Salem. Venezia chipped in 14 points and 12 assists and Ariana Stockinger had 12 points.

PANAS went 2-1 for the week with victories over Peekskill, 59-41, and Gorton, 67-30. The Panthers, now 5-5 this season, lost by a point, 51-50, to Pelham.

Kellie Brown paced the offense with 20 points against Peekskill (1-6). Danielle Merante added 14 points and Kristen Cinquina had 12 points.

In the Pelham game, Brown netted 19 points and Kristen Scrobola and Merante had nine points apiece. Brown tallied 15 points, Merante added 12 and Caileen Nolan collected 11 points against Gorton.

“We played well as a team against Peekskill,” Panas coach Matt Evangelista said. “We defended very well. Kellie made timely shots to keep us in the lead for most of the game. We did a good job of protecting and extending the lead in the fourth quarter.”

Cinquina evened the score against Pelham in the last 30 seconds, but Pelham converted one of two free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining to steal the game.

“We got off to an early lead in the Gorton game and maintained the lead until we blew it open in the fourth quarter,” Evangelista said.

SOMERS also went 2-1 for the week. The Class A Tuskers defeated Tappan Zee, 59-53, and Brewster, 61-47, before an 84-47 loss to Ossining in a matchup of 2017 sectional champions.

“The best thing about the two wins were the continued growth of the two girls off of our bench,” Somers’ coach Marc Hattem said. “Senior Dani Cucchiarella and sophomore Pooja Rao continue to get better, making us a deeper team. Pooja averaged 10 points and six rebounds in the two wins.

“In the loss to Ossining, it was a two-point game, 31-29, late in the first half, but then they went on a big run to put us away. They are as good as any team we have seen or will see. Dani had a career-high six 3-pointers.”

Hannah Angelini had 21 points and seven rebounds against Tappan Zee and Liv Lipski added 13 points. Angelini finished with 17 points against Brewster, Dani DiCintio contributed 14 points and Lipski rang up five steals.

Despite the loss to Somers, BREWSTER Coach Mike Castaldo came away pleased with this team’s performance.

“I could not be prouder of the way my team played,” Castaldo said. “The girls executed the game plan, played extremely physical, got on the floor and took charges. We just lost to a really good team.”

Castaldo said one factor that led to Somers’ victory was the 18 points it received from its bench players.

Maggie Depaoli finished with a game-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers, and Kristen Stefanick chipped in 16 points.

“Maggie did a great job of breaking the press, getting to the rim and was lethal from long range. Kristen had her best all-around game as a varsity player,” Castaldo said. “This was a great game to be a part of.”

YORKTOWN opened its week with a 48-37 win over Horace Greeley, then dropped a 43-32 verdict to Putnam Valley

Kat Severino posted a game-high 26 points against Greeley. Mackenzie Merson added 10 points and Jesse Barer finished with seven points. Severino scored 17 points against Putnam Valley.

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