Leading off today:
I can think of a lot of difficult circumstances teams and individuals -- especially young athletes -- endure, but few can equal what the Elmira girls basketball team endured Saturday.
The Express took four-time defending NYSPHSAA Class AA champion Ossining to the wire before finally falling short, 87-80, at Johnson City High School.
What started as a blowout -- Ossining roaring to a 20-point lead in the first quarter -- turned into one of the most exciting finishes of the weekend in New York playoff basketball as Ossining advanced thanks to a 16-3 spurt in the closing minutes.
It was the end of a long day and a difficult week for Elmira. The team gathered earlier Saturday for funeral services for Delmar Fisher, the father of Express point guard Kiara Fisher who died unexpectedly Sunday at the age of 41.
Hours later, Kiara Fisher piled up 25 points, 10 assists and four steals in the near-upset.
"It was (tough), but I knew I should play for my dad because that's what he would have wanted me to do," Fisher said.
Among Elmira's assistant coaches is Cara Hope, who is Kiara's mom.
"It's the bravest thing I've ever seen in my life and I can't say I would have been able to do that as a 15-year-old," head coach A'Don Allen said. "She went to her fathers funeral this morning and the team went. We went as a unit to be there for Kiara. They picked her up and she wanted to play today for her dad. I knew her dad personally and I know he is looking down on her as proud as can be about what she did today."
The game brought some of the almost routine monster efforts seen by Ossining all season long. Senior Andra Espinoza-Hunter had 40 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Sophomore Kailah Harris added 29 points and 16 rebounds for the Pride, putting up 15 points in the first quarter as Ossining grabbed a 23-3 lead.
Zaria DeMember-Shazer and Zaria Thomas were each scoreless in the first quarter for Elmira but came back to finish with 22 and 19 points, respectively.
"It was a track meet. I give them a lot of credit," Ossining coach Dan Ricci said of Elmira. "That's the first team we've played in a long time that can run with us. (Fisher), I know she went through a tragedy. She was phenomenal today. I thought we did a great job on (Thomas), but (Fisher) scorched us."
The Express scored 30 points in the third quarter and were up 67-63 heading to the final eight minutes. A 3-pointer from junior Kelsey Quain with 1:59 left gave the Pride a two-point lead, and Ossining stretched the margin in the final minute.
And then there were none: The last of the state's unbeaten boys basketball teams fell when Harrisville defeated Madison 52-42 in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D quarterfinals.
"We had an incredible run, an incredible season," Blue Devils coach Dan Mitchell said. "We didn't play our game today."
Ryan Weaver was the game-high scorer with 18 points for Harrisville while teammate Peyton Schmitt added 14.
After Lincoln Piasek scored the first basket of the second half to put Madison ahead 25-21, but the Pirates proceeded to run off 14 unanswered points to take charge. The Pirates knocked down four 3-pointers in less than four minutes, with Weaver and Dalton Church connecting for two apiece.