NSA’s Birdsong named state Player of YearPublished 9:38pm Saturday, March 15, 2014
Pieroni repeats as first team all-state
The Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association committee determining state girls’ basketball honors ensured two Lady Saints were recognized for their contributions to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s success this year.
In only her sophomore year, point guard Harper Birdsong received the highest individual honor available at the VISAA Division II level — Player of the Year.
Last year, guard/forward Jessica Pieroni became the first NSA girls’ basketball player to ever make the all-state first team, and now, after her senior season, she has accomplished the feat in back-to-back years.
Birdsong did not see the Player of the Year honor coming.
“It’s an unbelievable honor, and I was really actually shocked to get the award because I didn’t find out until a couple days ago,” she said. She learned one great thing can follow another.
She had been out of the country, enjoying a spring break vacation of 80-degree weather in Puerto Rico, and when she re-entered the United States in Baltimore, Md., she checked her phone.
“I come back, and I hear that,” she said of the news.
She expressed gratitude to those on the committee who voted for her and theorized why they might have done so.
Aside from just piling up assists, she said, “Being a team player helps, and I think that everyone on our team was team players, and that’s why we advanced so far this year,” she said.
In the 2013-14 season, Birdsong helped her team reach the state semifinals and finish with a 21-3 overall record and an undefeated season against Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools opponents, netting both TCIS regular season and TCIS tournament championships.
She finished the year averaging 15.1 points, 7.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game over the course of 24 games played.
Demonstrating significant improvement this year, particularly in her points and assists averages, Birdsong spread the credit around.
“I think, in part, it was Coach Aston,” she said. “She is an amazing coach, and she’s helped nurture me over the years.”
Birdsong also highlighted her teammates: “We’re just the closest group, and they really encouraged me to get better.”
She said Pieroni helped her improve when they played together on an Amateur Athletic Union team. Birdsong also credited that team’s coach, Troy Terry, and thanked Anthony Chapelle, a coach who helped her improve her shot over the summer.
Pieroni was pleased to see her teammate get the Player of the Year award.
“I think it’s awesome,” Pieroni said. “I was really excited for her. She definitely deserves it.”
Birdsong expressed similar feelings about Pieroni’s first team all-state achievement. Pieroni herself applied both an individual and team approach in addressing her consecutive honors.
“It’s really exciting; I’ve worked hard, so it’s very fulfilling,” she said. “But also from a team aspect, we had such a great year this year, it makes it even better.”
She said the hard work she put in during the past off-season helped her repeat but implied a losing season could have changed things.
“I also think the team success had a big part in it, as well,” she said.
Her contribution to that team success included 17.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game over the course of 24 contests played.
She said in a sense, earning this honor again was one of her goals for this year.
“I didn’t want to have a letdown season, but again, individual goals are never my main focus,” she said.