Saints fall to Norfolk Christian

Published 10:23pm Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Lady Saints jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter of Wednesday’s match-up against host Norfolk Christian in the second round of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state tournament. The Lady Ambassadors ultimately responded with a pressure-filled defensive effort that led them to a 57-37 win, ending NSA’s season.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior guard Jessica Pieroni releases a shot against host Norfolk Christian in Wednesday’s second round game in the VISAA state tournament. Pieroni led her team with 13 points, but the Lady Saints’ season came to a close with a 57-37 loss.
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior guard Jessica Pieroni releases a shot against host Norfolk Christian in Wednesday’s second round game in the VISAA state tournament. Pieroni led her team with 13 points, but the Lady Saints’ season came to a close with a 57-37 loss.

“We just, once again, against good pressure, didn’t take care of the ball,” Lady Saints head coach Kim Aston said. “Against defensive pressure, we got rattled, we had 28 turnovers. So, that’s the difference in the game.”

The No. 5-seeded Lady Ambassadors erased No. 4-seed NSA’s 10-2 lead by the end of the quarter. The game was tied at 10 entering the second period. The Norfolk Christian run generated four more points, but then freshman point guard Harper Birdsong hit a pair of free throws and junior guard Macy Mears followed it up with a three-pointer to give the lead back to the Lady Saints, 15-14.

The two teams traded leads until sophomore forward Caylin Harris got a put back, junior guard Jessica Pieroni followed it up with a jumper, and then Mears put back a Pieroni miss to make it 23-18 with 2:06 to go in the half.

Norfolk Christian fought its way back, though, and by halftime, the score was tied again, 23 all. “I think everybody played well to start the game, and then once they started making a little run and they were putting pressure on us, that’s when we got rattled and just we weren’t utilizing what we had out on the floor,” Aston said. “They had three good defenders, but the other two weren’t doing much.”

Nansemond-Suffolk had a special defensive scheme designed to limit Norfolk Christian’s star seniors, Latrice Hunter and Danielle Webster.

Pieroni got the assignment of covering Webster and Mears, once again, covered Hunter.

“We were playing a triangle and two,” Aston said. “Caylin and Harper (were) on the block. That’s why Harper had more rebounds than she typically does because she was the one that was on the block.”

Birdsong ended up with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

It was the Lady Ambassador’s defense that proved to be the bigger factor, though. Nansemond-Suffolk made it successfully through the full court press at various points, but their problem came once they got to the other end of the court, “just running an offense,” Aston said.

At the end of the third quarter, Norfolk Christian led 42-34 and the Lady Saints would only muster three fourth-quarter points. Pieroni still led NSA in scoring, as she did most of the season, scoring 13 points, and junior guard/forward Kaylor Nash contributed a team-high 13 rebounds.

Nansemond-Suffolk finished the year with an overall record of 18-10.

Reflecting back on 2012-13 season, Aston was thankful for the team chemistry.

“They were an easy team to coach because they all got along, and they were great teammates and we had good leadership, so it was a fun team to coach because there were no issues on the team,” she said.

She also took note of what she will have returning next year — everyone, except for senior Tori Lauder.

“Hopefully next year we’ll be contending for a championship,” Aston said. “We got to get better at the things we did a poor job at this year, which was composure against pressure.”

The team will have to play with more confidence.

“It’s their mental state-of-mind when they’re on the floor, because it’s not that they’re not good enough,” Aston said.

She said that the team’s best game came against Richmond Collegiate, even though it was a loss, and she explained why.

“They stayed composed and they ran offenses and they got good shots,” she said.

A model, perhaps, to go by for next year.

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