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Longwood falls to Ossining in state Class AA semifinal

Kanesha Strider had 11 points - her third-most this season - and kept Longwood in the contest during the first half.

Longwood's Kanesha Strider scores against Ossining's Kailah Harris

Longwood's Kanesha Strider scores against Ossining's Kailah Harris in a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA girls basketball semifinal on Saturday in Troy, N.Y.  Photo Credit: HANS PENNINK/Hans Pennink

TROY, N.Y. — If being on a team is about making sacrifices, then consider Kanesha Strider the ultimate team player.

Strider, one of three seniors on the Longwood girls basketball team, often took a backseat to some of her teammates when it came to scoring, but when the Lions needed some help in a state Class AA semifinal against Ossining on Saturday, Strider was there to pitch in.

She had 11 points — her third-most this season — and kept Longwood in the contest during the first half. Ossining’s Aubrey Griffin proved too much to handle, as the Miss New York Basketball winner scored 22 of her 37 points in the second half and led the Pride to a 68-56 win.

Ossining plays West Genesee in the state Class AA final on Sunday at 11:45 a.m. at Hudson Valley CC.

“She’s one of those kids who had to sacrifice probably some parts of her individual game because the ball is in the other girls’ hands,” Lions coach James Castiglione said of Strider. “We challenged her this week knowing that we needed somebody else to step up.”

Trailing 31-25 at halftime after Strider scored her team’s final six points of the second quarter, Longwood (23-3) carried some momentum into the early minutes of the third quarter. Janelle Brown (11 points) drained a three-pointer, cutting the deficit to 31-28.

Both teams jockeyed for control the next few minutes, but Ossining (21-6) took advantage after the Lions’ Nyia Longford picked up her fourth personal foul with 3:27 left in the period.

The Pride closed the quarter on a 12-4 run, entering the final period with a 55-40 lead. Tatiana Stevens (17 points) cut the deficit to 64-54 with 1:20 left, but Griffin finished it with a three-pointer from the right wing with her future college coach, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, watching from the stands.

“I thought the third quarter was critical,” Castiglione said. “Even though Nyia wasn’t having her best offensive game, when she picked up her fourth and we had to sit her in the third quarter, the game got out of hand. She’s such a stabilizing influence.”

Longwood's best quarter was the first. The Lions led 15-14 on Stevens’ lay-in before Griffin scored for Ossining with seconds remaining. Leading 16-15, the Pride scored the first nine points of the second quarter.

Ossining coach Dan Ricci said Longwood “made things difficult for us” because “those girls never quit.”

“I don’t think the moment was too big for us, and I think that says a lot of our seniors,” Castiglione said. “No moment was ever too big for them. Ossining was just a better team, but the moment was never too big.”

Longford, Stevens and Strider — the Lions’ seniors — leave an indelible mark on the program. They brought Longwood its first Long Island championship in program history and leave the team in the hands of Brown, a junior, and Taydra Simpson, a freshman.

“They’re never going to stop coming up here,” Strider said. “Next year, our younger kids are going to come up here and do their best, too.”

And even though the Lions were beaten on the season’s brightest stage, Strider said the bus ride back from Troy will be celebratory. After all the sacrifices made, Longwood will just enjoy its time together.

“We’re going to have so much fun on this bus ride home,” she said. “We put so much energy into this, we’re going to be happy with each other.”

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