Lady Saints extend record

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nansemond-Suffolk junior guard Jessica Pieroni tangles with the Bishop Sullivan Crusaders during the Lady Saints' 48-35 home win on Wednesday night. Pieroni finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s varsity girls’ basketball team recovered from a slow start against Bishop Sullivan to finish with a 48-35 home victory on Wednesday night.

Freshman guard Harper Birdsong led the Lady Saints with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and junior guard Jessica Pieroni had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals.

NSA trailed 15-11 after the first quarter. Head coach Kim Aston felt that uncharacteristic errors were partially to blame, but also some risky defensive play that did not pay off.

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“I think that our (full court) press caused some troubles at the beginning, and then we sort of got out of kilter with that a little bit, trying to gamble too much, but I think overall we did a pretty good job with the press,” she said.

Her overall positive opinion reflected the fact that strong defense helped dig the Lady Saints out of the early hole.

“I thought in the second and third quarters we picked up our defensive pressure,” Aston said. “We were able to make them take difficult shots. So, we sort of controlled the tempo of the game better in the second and third quarters.”

NSA outscored the Crusaders 17-5 in the second quarter and 14-6 in the third. Junior guard/forward Kaylor Nash was instrumental in widening the gap on the scoreboard with 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

In terms of shooting, it was a bit of an off night for Pieroni, who typically leads the team in scoring.

“I wasn’t really hitting, but my teammates did a great job making up for that,” she said. “We were able to spread the floor, especially in the second half and run some clock off and penetrate and pitch. That worked out well, I thought.”

Pieroni was referring to the Lady Saints’ strategy of spreading out their strong shooters on the perimeter, forcing the Crusaders’ defense to come to them. This opens up the middle, giving Birdsong three different options: penetrate and score, penetrate and draw the foul or penetrate to draw the defense and pitch it back out to an open shooter.

The strategy proved to be effective, giving Birdsong and others a variety of opportunities to score.

“I shot well from the free throw line,” she said. “I think if we hadn’t made our free throws, they might have won. I think that was really important.”

The Lady Saints went 13 for 15 from the charity stripe.

When the fourth quarter arrived, NSA held a 42-26 lead with a simple goal in mind.

“Hold the ball,” Birdsong said. “That was our game plan.”

Aston praised the poise demonstrated by her back court during the game, particularly because the team’s perimeter shooting was off.

“I thought Macy (Mears) and Harper did a good job controlling the ball out front and just running some time off the clock before we took shots,” she said.

Nansemond-Suffolk (5-1, 0-0) hosts Tidewater Academy on Tuesday.