TROY, N.Y. -- Short of a victory, Sachem East said, they wanted more than anything to leave the court having earned the respect of their opponent.
And as the Flaming Arrows ambled off, Ossining superstar Saniya Chong, surrounded by a gaggle of media, said, "Sachem's a tough team. It was a dogfight and they were right there with us. You definitely can't take them for granted."
Sachem East's season ended Friday night with a 66-58 loss to Ossining in a state Class AA girls basketball semifinal at Hudson Valley CC.
So soon after defeat, with the pain of disappointment so fresh and eyes still teary, moral victories provide little comfort. But when the Flaming Arrows look back on this season, and its story is told, it will be of their resurgence.
"It really hurts to not win it all, but I understand how far we came," said senior Christina Schretzman, who scored six points. "A lot of people doubted us along the way, but look what we did. What we did this year was huge and I'm proud."
The Arrows led 26-25 at halftime and was within two points early in the fourth quarter. Mind you, this was against Ossining, a team ranked 28th in the country and led by Chong, a Connecticut-bound senior.
Katie Doherty had 19 points and seven rebounds and Kathleen Everson had 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead Sachem East (21-3). Emily Carmel added 10 points, and Allie Drake had 10 rebounds and two steals.
Chong, named Gatorade's New York Player of the Year before the game, scored 27 points -- though she shot only 7-for-20 from the field -- to go with eight rebounds and seven steals. With her jumper off, she used quick crossovers to drive inside in the second half. She went 12-for-13 from the free throw line. Jalay Knowles added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Pride (21-4), who will face Gates-Chili in the final at 8:45 p.m. Saturday.
Chong now as 868 points and needs only 24 to set the single-season state record.
"Sometimes the ball didn't bounce our way and sometimes we got beat," Doherty said. "But we've come so far, I couldn't be more proud."
Sachem East led 14-6 midway through the first quarter, but Ossining charged back in the second. Knowles' layup to open the third gave the Pride a 27-26 lead they didn't relinquish.
Everson's jumper got Sachem East within 48-46 with 7:36 remaining, but Ossining answered with a 6-0 run. Chong's three-pointer from the left corner made it 57-48 with 3:41 left.
"You can't keep a player that great down for too long," Arrows coach Matt Brisson said. "She's special and we knew she'd heat up at some point, so we just had to brace for that."
Schretzman's three pulled the Arrows within five points with 22 seconds left, but Chong hit five free throws to seal the win.
"It's always hard to accept a loss like this, especially when you were close," Everson said. The Flaming Arrows will graduate four seniors, including three starters. But, Everson said, "as a junior, losing here and having this feeling now, it's added motivation for us to get back next year and do better."
Sachem East won the state title in 2010 -- that team, of course, was headlined by Kristen Doherty -- but this core fell short in the Suffolk playoffs the two years that followed. This season, they said all along, was about redemption. "We did that," Brisson said. "And we were down to the wire with [Ossining], so we have nothing to be ashamed of."
"Sachem East is no joke," she said. "They play as a team, they're physical and have good fundamentals. You've gotta give them props."
Indeed, respect was earned.