Nansemond-Suffolk freshman point guard Harper Birdsong drives toward the paint against visiting Isle of Wight on Tuesday. Birdsong had 14 points and 10 assists to contribute to the Lady Saints’ 53-25 victory in the first round of the VISAA state tournament.
Nansemond-Suffolk freshman point guard Harper Birdsong drives toward the paint against visiting Isle of Wight on Tuesday. Birdsong had 14 points and 10 assists to contribute to the Lady Saints’ 53-25 victory in the first round of the VISAA state tournament.

NSA claims first state-level win

Published 10:26pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The girls’ basketball teams for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and Isle of Wight Academy faced each other for the first time in more than three years Tuesday. The meeting just happened to be in the first round of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state tournament, with each team’s season on the line.

The game was tight at the beginning, but the No. 5-seed Lady Saints eventually justified their higher ranking and pulled away from the visiting No. 12-seeded Lady Chargers, winning 53-25. It was the first win at the state level in school history for the girls’ basketball program at NSA.

“It’s a good win to get under our belt, to get the monkey off your back,” Lady Saints head coach Kim Aston said.

Junior guard/forward Kaylor Nash described the scene when the team retreated to a classroom for its post-game meeting.

“After we won, we all came into the room and just started screaming and high-fiving, chest-bumping,” she said. “It was great.”

As the Lady Chargers’ season comes to an end, their head coach Chris Hooper was not hanging his head over the loss.

“We got a young team and we play hard every game,” he said. “We might not have the talent to match up, but we play hard, and we’ve progressed a lot from the beginning of the year.”

He was particularly pleased that his team qualified for the state tournament and ended up 15-8 after having been a .500 team for the last two years.

“It was a good test for us to tell us what we need to do to get ready for next year, because I knew what Nansemond-Suffolk had talent-wise,” Hooper said.

Aston noted that, though her team has talent, it could not approach the game as if it would be a simple win.

“I think that we expected to win this game, but you’ve got to get it done once you get out there,” she said.

“I thought we started off slower than we probably should have, but second half, we really picked it up, started pushing it,” NSA junior guard Jessica Pieroni said.

“I think that we ran our half-court offense pretty well,” Aston said. “(Isle of Wight) played (man-to-man) all night long, and we got the shots that we wanted. One thing that we definitely have to do a better job of is rebound the ball offensively and not watch shots go up.”

Pieroni led the Lady Saints with 21 points on 63-percent shooting from the floor. Freshman point guard Harper Birdsong was incredibly efficient with 14 points, going 6-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line, with 10 assists compared to only four turnovers. Nash led the team with five steals, but also was more active offensively, with eight points, after setting a pre-game goal to drive to the hoop at least five times.

Nansemond-Suffolk (18-9) plays tonight against host and No.4-seeded Norfolk Christian in the second round of the VISAA state tournament. It will be the teams’ third meeting this season, and the Lady Saints will be searching for their first win.

“We just have to be ready to attack and not be back on our heels,” Aston said.

Lady Ambassadors senior guard Latrice Hunter scored 47 her team’s 62 points in the last game on Feb. 14. Fellow senior and equally dangerous offensive threat Danielle Webster will also be a concern for NSA.

“Macy will have one, Kaylor will have the other, probably, but we’ll probably rotate a lot of kids on them, because it gets tiring, staying on them the entire game,” Aston said of her defensive strategy.

Entering this game, the goal and mindset is simple for Nash.

“Play hard, be fearless, attack, attack, attack and win,” she said.

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