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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chong ready for final home game at UConn

Saniya Chong joined fellow senior Tierney Lawlor as part of the emotional Senior Day festivities before she played her final regular-season home game at Gampel Pavilion.

There will be no such ceremonies before tomorrow night's game as Chong will play at Gampel Pavilion for the final time as a Husky.

If UConn wins, the seniors will become the fourth class in program history not to lose a game at Gampel in their four years.

Chong still remembers her first game at Gampel Pavilion when she had six points, three assists and two steals in 76-57 win over No. 3 Stanford on Nov. 11, 2014.

"It was pretty amazing," Chong said. "It was my first game. I remember it was my first time putting on a UConn uniform and you never know what to expect going out there. It was really a day that I will remember forever."

UConn is 9-0 at Gampel Pavilion this season including the win over Albany in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Overall, the record is 36-0. The Class of 2004 headlined by Diana Taurasi and Derby native Maria Conlon finished 43-0 at Gampel, the Tina Charles-led Class of 2010 went 47-0 while Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon finished 40-0 at Gampel during their time.

"When you are a freshman and you don't expect to have this record or expect much," Chong said.."It has been an amazing experience and I have a lot of memories and looking back it to know that
I made history and I made so many new friends."

There was no guarantee that Chong was going to have a significant role as a senior. Typically, if a player doesn't carve out a role by the end of their sophomore years they often get passed by in the playing rotation by the new patch of recruits. That is not the case with Chong who went from averaging 17.1, 19.0 and 12.4 minutes per game to being out there for 30.3 minutes as a senior.

"I couldn't be happier for anybody that I am for Saniya." UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey said. "This year she has been able to put it all together, she has been able to everything off the court in a good place and anything on the court, she is the quickest player we have with the ball, she is great with ball screens. She stayed engaged, she has worked really hard and she plays the majority of the time. There aren't many minutes in the game when Saniya isn't on the court whether it is with the first group or with the second group, she has done a great job with the second group. She has really grown up and it nice to see."

Chong is also a part of the last class at UConn that can remember having practices at Gampel Pavilion on the regular basis as the Huskies began practicing at the Werth Family Champions Center during Chong's sophomore season.

"It was like last year I was just in here (practicing)," Chong said, "I know some of the new girls they don't realize we were in here and how different it is compared to our new facility. I am happy
I had the ability to experience both."

It was not all good news for Chong. The former Ossining High School star heard that they fell to Baldwin 73-45 in the New York AA state title game ending a run of four consecutive state titles, a run that began when Chong was a senior.

"I felt really bad for them and I heard Coach (Dan) Ricci got thrown out so I knew it must have been a bad game but they still came a long way and I am very proud of them," Chong said.

UConn signee Andra Espinoza-Hunter had 19 points in the game. Espinoza-Hunter was an eighth grader on the first of Ossining's teams that won the AA title before playing at Blair Academy for the next three seasons. She returned for her senior season and the 995 points she scored broke the NYSPHSAA single-season record set by Karen O'Connor in 1987.

I am proud of her, she worked so hard to get where she is and I know she is over there breaking records. I am happy for her to come her and continue her career.

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