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Westchester Elite; Stepinac Loses to Ossining at Pace

Posted Thursday, January 11, 2007 by Coach T

Ossining validating its status
By Kevin Devaney Jr.
The Journal News
(Original Publication: January 8, 2007)

PLEASANTVILLE - The game meant nothing in the standings and had absolutely no effect on Ossining's playoff position. But there's no denying yesterday's win over Stepinac didn't provide validation.

Ossining dealt the Crusaders a 70-68 defeat in the Westchester Elite Hardwood Classic at Pace University's Goldstein Center, to remain as one of the Lower Hudson Valley's three remaining unbeaten teams.

The win, over a highly publicized and regarded Stepinac team, legitimized Ossining as a contender in Class AA.

"This game was a huge step for our program," Ossining coach Lonnie Drinks said. "This win validated us. It proved we could really play. In the past, we couldn't compete with teams like this. Now, we're legit."

Ossining (7-0) proved that by beating the Crusaders, who in last week's Slam Dunk Challenge, defeated Peekskill, the reigning Class A state and Federation champs. Ossining, which had 22 days off before yesterday's game, will host Peekskill today at 4:15 p.m.

"We've already put this game behind us," Ossining senior Kenny Horton said moments after leaving the locker room. "We've already started thinking about Peekskill."

Horton might want to savor his performance yesterday a little bit longer.

The 6-foot-6 forward headed to Quinnipiac had a career game, recording 27 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists. He shot 10 of 14 from the floor, 7 for 7 from the line and provided the game-clinching free throws four seconds to play in an MVP performance.

"I was actually trying not to do too much," Horton said. "I didn't want come out and overdo it."

Horton got help. Zaire Thomas scored 22 points and Jeff Ward provided eight points in seven rebounds for Ossining, which led by as many as 14 points in the first half.

Stepinac climbed back into the game with huge second-quarter efforts from junior guards Melquan Bolding and Tony Taylor, which combined for 16 of the Crusaders' 20 points in the period. Taylor finished with 24 points and Bolding had 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Taylor gave Stepinac its first lead of the game with a 3-pointer with 5:31 to play. Bolding, who's headed to Louisville, and Horton exchanged through the fourth quarter before Horton gave Ossining a 66-62 lead on a put-back with 24 seconds to play.

The Crusaders pulled back within one on an Andrew Flynn 3-pointer but cost its chance at a victory on Ossining ensuing possession.

In an obvious foul situation, Tyler Davidov caught the inbound for Ossining near midcourt with eight seconds remaining and collided with Stepinac's Rashaad Slowley, who was whistled for an intentional foul. Davidov made both the free throws and, after Horton was fouled on the inbound, he put the game away with two more foul shots.

"I don't think (Slowley) was trying to knock the guy down. His momentum just took him and knocked him over," Stepinac coach Tim Philp said. "But it absolutely didn't decide the outcome of the game. We missed some big foul shots down the stretch and went 5 for 12 from the line in the second half."

Ossining went 15 for 15 from the line for the game and shot 51-percent from the field in what's arguably the program's biggest win in nearly a decade.

"We tried to use this game as a measuring stick," Horton said. "The teams we beat up to this point weren't as good as the ones we're going to play the rest of the way. We've been talking about Stepinac and Peekskill. And we've got one of the wins."

Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at kdevaneylohud.com. Read his Varsity Insider blog at kickoff.lohudblogs.com.

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