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TROY, N.Y. — It didn’t take long to realize why Cicero-North Syracuse’s Breanna Stewart is considered the best player in the country.
The UConn-bound Stewart, a 6-foot-4 forward, had a double-double by the end of the first quarter and finished the game with 42 points and 29 rebounds in a 79-51 victory over previously undefeated Ossining (23-1) in the Class AA state semifinals.
“They didn’t miss any shots and we didn’t make any to start the game, and I attribute a lot of that to them,” Ossining coach Dan Ricci said. “They rallied around Breanna and they all played well. She’s something else, though.”
The Northstars (20-3) jumped out to a 29-6 lead after the first quarter behind Stewart’s 14 points and 14 rebounds. Stewart’s ability and height allowed the all-American to sky for a rebound on one end, dribble up the court herself, and drill a 3-pointer on the other end.
“She is phenomenal and proved why she’s the best player in the country,” Ricci said. “We made some young mistakes early and they capitalized. She put on a show.”
Ossining was just 6-for-29 from behind the arc in a game which they needed a spectacular shooting performance.
“Everyone thinks they make a lot of threes, but the key to them is their second and third opportunities,” Cicero-North Syracuse coach Eric Smith said about Ossining. “When there’s a 6-foot-4 kid back there, you don’t get too many of those extra chances.”
Pride star Saniya Chong scored 21 points in the loss, but shot just 7-for-27 from the floor. She was 1-for-10 from three-point range. She also added four rebounds and four assists.
“Sara Bowles defended Saniya today, and I think she was the catalyst,” Smith said. “I think Saniya was trying to get her team going and forced some quick shots with someone in her face — something she’s probably not used to.”
Stewart continued to dominate despite double-teams throughout the game. She had 21 rebounds by halftime and neutralized Ossining’s press by playing point guard.
Stewart’s supporting cast proved they were worthy of a state final four game as well. Brittany Paul added 17 points and Abbey Timpano finished with nine points and six assists.
“We heard a couple comments from media and their team up on our wall before the game saying that Breanna was our whole team, but their team was better,” Smith said. “I think that fueled my complementary players who played amazing tonight.”
Ossining will look toward next year with its entire team returning. Ricci expects to play a national schedule much like Cicero-North Syracuse did this year.
“We’d like to play in that Nike tournament out in Phoenix next year,” Ricci said. “We’re going to play Christ the King, I think. We’re going to prepare to be back here again and win this thing.”
Follow John Malone on Twitter @MSGV_Malone