Birdsong, Aston are top state honorees
Published 9:26 pm Friday, April 1, 2016
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s girls’ basketball team swept the top individual state honors for the 2015-16 season at the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II level.
For the third consecutive year, Lady Saints point guard Harper Birdsong was named the VISAA Division II state Player of the Year for girls’ basketball.
NSA coach Kim Aston received her first state-level Coach of the Year honor for girls’ basketball, while Birdsong made the all-state first team and senior center Caroline Hogg made the all-state second team.
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Reflecting on being declared the top player in the state for the third year in a row, Birdsong, a senior, said, “It’s just a great honor to have.”
She has been holding herself to a remarkably high standard during her high school career, an effort aided by the first time she received the state Player of the Year award.
“Ever since I got it three years ago, if I didn’t get it (each year after), I was going to be really disappointed and mad at myself,” she said.
In helping propel the Lady Saints to their second straight state championship game appearance, Birdsong averaged 20.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
“Obviously, I felt like she deserved to win it again,” Aston said of Birdsong’s award. “She had her best year of her career this year, but you never know how voting is going to go for things like that. I had my fingers crossed that she would receive that honor again, and I was happy that she did.”
Though Birdsong was the focus of defensive schemes this season like she was last season, most of her statistics improved significantly.
For the 2014-15 season, she averaged 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Aston said Birdsong works hard every summer to improve her game, and this past summer she worked diligently on her shot.
“You could really tell a difference,” the coach said. “It paid off.”
Aston led the Lady Saints to a 24-4 record during the 2015-16 season, as they reached the state title game for the second time in school history.
They won the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools regular season and tournament championships and were competitive throughout the state title game before ultimately falling 46-41 to The Miller School of Albemarle.
“It’s a nice honor,” Aston said of her state coaching accolade. “As coaches, that’s not a goal that you set out for. I was more impressed with the play of our team this year and how far we were able to get. Obviously, a little disappointed with the end result, but really happy about the team’s success.”
Aston’s players were pleased to see their coach get the state honor.
“I think it was very well deserved,” Birdsong said. “If I didn’t have Kim, I would not be the player I am today or have been state Player of the Year at all. She’s just taught me to play the game the right way.”
And though Birdsong has a wealth of experience playing for coaches outside of high school ball, she said the plays Aston designs for the Lady Saints are the best.
Caroline Hogg said of Aston, “I think she’s a great coach, and she’s really helped me become a better player these last five years.”
“I’m really happy that she was finally able to win the all-state Coach of the Year (award). I feel like she should have won our conference’s award, as well.”