Conference honorsPublished 11:02pm Friday, February 22, 2013
Three Lady Saints named to all-TCIS team
The Nansemond-Suffolk Aca-demy girls’ basketball team has yielded three all-TCIS players after the Lady Saints completed the regular season with a record of 16-8, 5-3. Junior guard Jessica Pieroni and freshman point guard Harper Birdsong were named to the first team, and junior guard Macy Mears was named to the second team.
Selections are determined by a vote among the coaches of the basketball programs within the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools, and coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.
“I’m just happy for them,” NSA head coach Kim Aston said. “I’ve been coaching about 15 years now, so I’ve had a bunch of them come and go, but any time you have two of them on first team, that’s a pretty big honor.”
Pieroni, who is receiving first-team honors for the second year in a row, saw the honor through the lens of being an older, more experienced member of the team.
“It’s obviously exciting, but I look at it more as I’ve led my team this year,” she said.
Birdsong, who played well on the varsity team last year as an eighth grader, is a first-time all-TCIS selection.
“It was just a huge honor I even got in,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to, because last year I didn’t get first or second, so it was kind of a shock, but I was just really excited and honored that I got on with all those great players.”
Mears is well acquainted with honors for her play in softball, but like Birdsong, she did not expect this first-time basketball selection.
“It was a surprise to me, but I’m proud of it,” she said.
Pieroni has averaged 17 points a game this season along with 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Aston figured the reason for her position on the first team was clear.
“With Jessica, it’s obviously her ability to score,” she said. “She shoots the ball well and when she’s averaging that many points a game, that obviously is what sets her apart from some other kids.”
Summer and fall training were important in helping to continue receiving recognition and to improve, Pieroni said.
“I do strength and conditioning in the off-season, and I play (Amateur Athletic Union basketball),” she said. “My ball handling was definitely a point of emphasis this summer.”
Aside from being a freshman, Birdsong has a couple things that Aston thinks put her on voters’ radar.
“Harper catches people’s eye sometimes with just her flashiness on the floor,” Aston said. “She can go out there and make some spectacular move that kind of leaves the crowd in awe.”
Aston said that the biggest thing Birdsong brought to her team this year was her passing game. In addition to averaging 11 points per game, she also dished out 5.2 assists.
“That has allowed Jessica to score a lot of points this year,” Aston said.
Like Pieroni, Birdsong attributed her ability to hard work in the off-season.
“I practice a lot during the summer, and I train a lot,” she said. “I go to trainers and stuff like that, and this year is going to be my first year playing AAU, and I think that will help me too.”
Birdsong and Pieroni will actually be on the same AAU team this year, giving the two Lady Saints even more practice for NSA’s 2013-14 season.
Mears took a stab at why she was selected.
“I guess shooting more and defense,” she said.
“Macy has had to guard the best guard on any team we’ve played this year, and so I think that they’ve recognized her for her hard work on defense and also for her ability to hit some big shots this year at crucial times,” she said.
What shocked Aston the most was who was not selected from her team.
“I really felt like Kaylor (Nash) should have been recognized, as well,” she said.
Nash and the three players selected help form a team that Aston is proud of for its overall strength.
“Across the board, I feel like against most teams we’re more solid at all the positions, but they may have a big-time scorer that we don’t have or something different,” Aston said. “But I was happy for all of them.”