NSA pulls away from Lady Trojans

Published 12:50 am Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The No. 1-seeded Nansemond-Suffolk Academy girls’ basketball team’s initial subpar effort on Tuesday helped make for a tight conference tournament quarterfinal early on against visiting No. 8 seed Walsingham Academy. But the Lady Saints’ regained their form defensively and offensively, ultimately doubling the Lady Trojan’s point total with a 64-32 victory.

“We came out flat,” NSA head coach Kim Aston said. She knew it could be an issue because when the teams met only 17 days prior, the Lady Saints won by 44 points.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy sophomore point guard Harper Birdsong vies for two of her career-high 31 points during Tuesday’s quarterfinal win over visiting Walsingham Academy.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy sophomore point guard Harper Birdsong vies for two of her career-high 31 points during Tuesday’s quarterfinal win over visiting Walsingham Academy.

On Tuesday, Walsingham led 16-14 after what Aston described as a “back and forth” first quarter.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

“We were just trading baskets with them because our defense was a little lacking,” Aston said.

NSA outscored the Lady Trojans 13-4 in the second quarter but still only held a 27-20 advantage at the half, making for a game decidedly more competitive than the last meeting when the Lady Saints led 28-10 after two quarters.

Nansemond-Suffolk junior forward Sarah Higinbotham acknowledged the rough start on Tuesday, but said at halftime, “We just got our heads on straight.”

Aston noted some key factors at the midpoint of the game.

“We pretty much knew what offense they were running after the first half,” she said of Walsingham, because they featured a very limited range of looks. This made it easier to game plan as the game progressed.

“We changed up our defense,” she said. “We went to a half court trap.”

This resulted in a few Walsingham turnovers, which fueled some offensive runs during which NSA sophomore point guard Harper Birdsong had a field day. She ended up with a career-high 31 points to go with nine assists, four rebounds and two steals.

The Lady Saints enjoyed a 22-8 scoring advantage in the third quarter and outscored Walsingham 15-4 in the fourth. Senior guard/forward Jessica Pieroni was the other Lady Saint in double figures with 12 points in addition to six boards and three assists.

Aston highlighted some other standouts.

“I thought in the second half, Macy (Mears) did a better job defensively, and of course, she hit a couple big threes,” she said.

Mears, a senior guard, finished with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Aside from its own complacency, Nansemond-Suffolk also had to overcome the absence of senior guard/forward Kaylor Nash, who is a starter on the team. She was sidelined due to sickness.

However, multiple players stepped up in their increased minutes, including Higinbotham, who started in Nash’s place.

“Sarah Higinbotham is a very similar player to Kaylor,” Aston said. While Nash provides a bit more offense, Aston said, “Defensively, it’s about the same.”

Junior forward Caylin Harris produced season highs in rebounds, with 14, and points, with eight.

No. 4 Norfolk Academy defeated No. 5 Norfolk Collegiate School 50-37 on Tuesday, so NSA (18-2) will face the Lady Bulldogs on Thursday. The semifinal round of the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools tournament will be held at Norfolk Christian High School, and the Lady Saints’ game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.