ALBANY — It was a memorable first quarter, but by the end of the game, it was totally forgotten.
Long Island Lutheran built an early 19-point lead that disappeared in chunks large and small until it was no longer there. Eventually, neither were the Lady Crusaders.
Ossining rallied for a 64-54 victory Saturday night in the state Federation Class AA girls basketball championship game at the Times Union Center, ending a run of three straight Federation titles for Lutheran (18-6), the last two in Class AA and the 2013 crown in Class A.
“We got a little complacent and our lack of experience in certain situations caused us to lose it,” an emotionally drained Lutheran coach Rich Slater said, referring to a 26-9 first-quarter advantage built on the fine overall play of senior forward Sarah Mortensen, who scored nine of her 18 points in the first eight minutes.
Ossining (27-2) took advantage of some Lutheran foul trouble to roar back in the second quarter. Aubrey Griffin scored six points in that period, including a steal and layup in the closing seconds to bring the Pride to within 30-28 at halftime.
“They caused us to lose our composure,” Slater said of Ossining’s high-pressure style at both ends. “They hit some jumpers and got us in foul trouble.”
Still, it was a tight contest in the third quarter, with sophomore guard Grace Stone scoring six of her 12 points and Mortensen nailing a jumper that beat the buzzer to give the Lady Crusaders a 42-40 lead entering the final quarter.
But it was a bit of a mirage. Seton Hall-bound star Shadeen Samuels did not play the entire third quarter for Ossining, having picked up her fourth foul just before halftime. “We felt pretty good about our chances then,” Slater said.
But Samuels was a force in the fourth, scoring 12 points, including a putback that put the Pride ahead for good at 45-44. Griffin had eight fourth-quarter points and she and Samuels totaled all but two points of a game-turning 16-6 run. It was punctuated by Samuels’ long trey that gave Ossining a 56-48 lead with 2:04 left.
Was LuHi really ahead 26-9 after one? The Lady Crusaders scored only 28 points in the final three periods, barely exceeding their first-quarter total.
Slater attributed that to the relative inexperience of a team that replaced nearly all of its starters from last year’s championship squad, including five-year starter Boogie Brozoski, now at Michigan. “We had trouble recognizing certain situations,” Slater said.
But he clearly recognized the myriad skills of freshman Griffin, whose father, Adrian, played and now coaches in the NBA. “She’s special,” Slater said. “She gets to the basket and she’s tough.”
Griffin made it tough on Lutheran and Slater, who described the scene in his locker room this way: “A lot of tears. We’re usually on the other side of it up here. But you learn more from losing than from winning. It’s not good that we lost, but you hope we learned something for next year.”