NR girls set up Bethel showdown
Published 8:20 pm Friday, February 12, 2016
Nansemond River High School’s girls’ basketball team defeated host Warwick High School 58-51 on Thursday, helping it finish in a tie for first in the PenSouth Conference with Bethel High School.
Because being a regular season conference champion also includes a berth in the regional tournament, Nansemond River and Bethel must face each other again to break the tie.
For Suffolk girls’ basketball, it has been a week of playoff games that precede the actual playoffs. King’s Fork High School found itself in a three-way tie for first in Conference 17 on Tuesday.
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In the Lady Bulldogs’ first playoff game to determine a top seed, they beat Lake Taylor High School, advancing to a climactic showdown with Woodrow Wilson High School on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Deep Creek High School.
Two hours after that tip-off, Nansemond River will battle Bethel at Menchville High School.
But the Lady Warriors nearly missed out on the opportunity, producing a poor start on Thursday against Warwick, the No. 6-seeded team in the PenSouth Conference.
“I think we kind of overlooked them, anticipating playing Bethel, and we forgot that we need to take care of the game that we were playing first,” Nansemond River coach R. Calvin Mason Sr. said. “We were a little distracted, and it almost cost them.”
For the second game in a row, strong free-throw shooting was the Lady Warriors’ saving grace.
Nansemond River scored only four points in the first quarter but became a little more focused in the second quarter, turning up the defensive intensity a bit.
Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders were having a strong night.
“They played inspired basketball,” Mason said. “And we finally woke up a little bit, late in the third quarter, and that was the difference. We stopped sleepwalking.”
Nansemond River sophomore point guard Briana Autrey led her team with 14 points, adding five rebounds and four assists. Senior guard/forward Aneka Yelverton registered 12 points, while junior guard/forward Nijha Shannon had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“She’s really stepped her game up,” Mason said of Shannon. “I’m not surprised, because she’s always been capable, but she’s been a lot more focused here towards the end of the season.”
Lady Warriors junior shooting guard Cassidy Simmons had another steady game, contributing eight points and seven boards.
Mason noted that combined, Simmons and Autrey average almost 12 rebounds a game.
“When your backcourt can give you that many, it definitely helps,” he said.
On Tuesday, Nansemond River defeated conference foe Menchville 65-62, and “the story of the game for us was we made free throws,” Mason said.
The game was officiated very tightly. Autrey, playing only around four minutes, a couple of them scattered in the second half, fouled out.
Junior point guard Tashira Burch was sick and did not play, putting a lot of pressure on Simmons.
“Cassidy played 32 minutes and did a great job,” Mason said. “She played like a true warrior. She guarded the best player on the other team most of the night and handled the point all by herself.”
She finished with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Yelverton had 18 points, senior center Sabre Clegg had 18 more to go with 12 rebounds, and Shannon played some major minutes, contributing eight points and eight boards.
Nansemond River (16-5, 5-1) faces Bethel at Menchville on Saturday at 4 p.m.
In their one previous meeting this season, the visiting Lady Bruins narrowly defeated the Lady Warriors 46-44.