NSA girls top Ambassadors

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy girls’ basketball team achieved a win on Saturday that shows it has a viable chance to repeat as champion of the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools this season.

The Lady Saints won 41-37 against a visiting Norfolk Christian School that clearly will be one of the contenders at the end of the season.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy sophomore forward Kelly Hogan competes against visiting Norfolk Christian School on Saturday during the Lady Saints' 41-37 victory. (Janine DeMello photo)

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy sophomore forward Kelly Hogan competes against visiting Norfolk Christian School on Saturday during the Lady Saints’ 41-37 victory. (Janine DeMello photo)

Norfolk Christian fell to 13-4 with the loss, and NSA moved to 13-2.

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“It was a good team performance,” NSA coach Kim Aston said of the Lady Saints in Saturday’s game.

The Lady Ambassadors applied an unorthodox defense, with three players playing zone and two players focusing on Lady Saints junior point guard Harper Birdsong, forcing the Saints to pursue a full-team strategy to win.

“We were able to move the ball around and get open shots,” Aston said. “Caroline (Hogg) played well.”

NSA got the ball to its junior center, and Hogg finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

At various points this season, Birdsong has had to weather defenses specifically employed to stop her. But Aston said the Lady Saints handled this tactic much better on Saturday than they have against other teams that have made a similar effort.

“Kelly Hogan played well, rebounded well and hit some open shots,” Aston said. “Chloe Tillman came in and scored right off the bat.”

Norfolk Christian forced NSA senior guard Sarah Higinbotham to handle the ball, “because they were actually trying to keep it out of Harper’s hands,” Aston said.

Senior guard Bridget Murphy and sophomore guard Logan Harrell also took on some of the ball-handling responsibilities.

“Logan played some big minutes in that game,” Aston said, noting Harrell also provided some good rebounding.

Harrell, Higinbotham and Birdsong each had two assists.

Pleased with how Birdsong handled the pressure, Aston said, “She didn’t try to force anything. She just kind of let the game come to her.”

Birdsong ended up with 14 points, plus three boards, two steals and two blocks.

The Lady Saints led the entire game and were up by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter before the Lady Ambassadors hit back-to-back three-pointers.

Sophomore forward Kelly Hogan hit a key basket late to help keep NSA in front.

Norfolk Christian (13-4, 2-0) was led by sophomore guard Kiara Norman with 16 points and sophomore forward Madison Lowery with 12.

Nansemond-Suffolk (13-2, 3-0) visited Peninsula Catholic High School on Tuesday and travels to Norfolk Christian on Thursday for a rematch against the Lady Ambassadors that will count as a conference game.

Aston said she would prefer the games against NC be a little more spread out so “it’s not so fresh in their mind what we do,” and to allow more time for her team to improve.

But looking past the circumstances to Thursday, she said, “We’ve got to get ready for it.”