By MIKE SMITH
New Rochelle’s girls may have played their best basketball down the stretch this year, but against a dominant Ossining team in the Class AA quarterfinals, the size–and talent–of the Section I favorites proved too much to overcome.
On Feb. 21, the Pride ended the Huguenots’ season, beating New Rochelle 60-48 to move on to the County Center.
Ossining standout Jalay Knowles set the tone against New Rochelle, scoring 26 points in the win, but, according to head coach Bruce Daniele, New Rochelle had bigger problems with Ossining–literally.
The Pride’s size‑Ossining features three girls more than six feet tall‑may have been the biggest obstacle with which the surging New Rochelle squad had to contend.
“We knew they were huge, that they were going to press, we had the tape on them,” Daniele said. “But until you play them, when you see them, you don’t really understand that.”
Ossining jumped out to a big first-half lead, scoring 25 points in both the first and second quarters, but the Huguenots bravely battled back to cut the deficit to seven points in the second half thanks to a big third quarter before ultimately falling short in the comeback attempt.
“That 50 points, that was probably the best half of basketball we’ve seen against us,” Daniele said. “But, to their credit, the girls never gave up and it came down to a few big calls down the stretch for us, not taking anything away from Ossining.”
Over the course of the season, New Rochelle’s Achilles heel may have been its inability to apply pressure for four straight quarters, but the Huguenots were able to correct those mistakes coming into the playoffs.
In both the team’s first-round win over Mamaroneck and the Ossining game, Daniele said he was heartened by his squad’s determination and consistency.
“Without a doubt, these two games were the best we’ve played all year,” Daniele said. “Even in that loss, we played hard right until the end.”
Daniele believes that, with a significant height advantage over the remaining final four teams, Ossining should be the favorite to win Class AA, though he believes that teams like Clarkstown and Greeley could pose a threat if some early foul calls take the physical Pride out of their preferred style of play.
“I’d imagine that teams are going to have a tough time keeping it close against them,” he said. “But if the refs are calling these games tight, they may have a chance against Ossining.”
As for his team, Daniele will bid adieu to five seniors this year, including standout Amirror Dixon, but is confident his returning players, including a pair of late-season JV call-ups, will help New Rochelle contend next year.
“Ursuline and Scarsdale are going to be teams to watch in our league next year,” Daniele said. “But I think we will be fine; we’re going to be very competitive.”