Eighth-grader saves Lady Saint winPublished 9:34am Wednesday, December 14, 2011
BY ANDREW GIERMAK/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD
SUFFOLK—With the game on the line, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s girls basketball squad relied on eighth-grader Harper Birdsong.
The tall, lanky guard was steadier than most varsity seniors in delivering two clutch baskets to help the Lady Saints finish off a 47-40 victory against visiting Collegiate of Richmond Friday.
The Lady Saints ran out, literally, to a big lead in the first few minutes of Friday’s game against the Lady Cougars. Collegiate rallied all the way back and led early in the fourth quarter. NSA regrouped, played smartly in the final three minutes, and sealed the win despite Collegiate’s comeback and Lady Saint foul trouble.
NSA got the jump on its guest with a flurry of fast breaks for easy hoops in the first half.
Sarah Baldwin, Birdsong and Jessica Pieroni combined for sharp passing down the length of the floor and a Pieroni lay-up for an 8-2 NSA lead. Pieroni drained an 18-foot jumper along the baseline to make it 10-2. Birdsong scored the next six Lady Saint points, with two long jumpers and a drive to the basket, for a 16-6 NSA lead after one period. The Lady Saints made 8-of-13 field goal attempts in the opening quarter.
The pace slowed some after NSA’s quick start, but the Lady Saints led 25-13 at halftime. NSA held a 28-17 lead two minutes into the second half.
Collegiate caught fire from there. Two Lady Saint turnovers, leading to two Cougar baskets, started Collegiate’s rally. Collegiate took its first lead of the game with a three-pointer, for a 31-30 lead, with 0:40 left in the third period.
NSA regained a 36-35 lead a couple minutes into the fourth period, but the slim edge was more tenuous as Baldwin and Kaylor Nash, NSA’s two starting forwards, fouled out during the next three minutes. NSA led 38-37 when Nash was forced to the bench with 3:24 to play.
The Saints and Cougars traded patient, but scoreless, trips down the court until Birdsong got the ball on the right wing, drove toward the hoop, pulled up and sank a 12-foot jumper for key Lady Saint points with 1:54 left.
NSA’s defense got one more stop, followed by the Lady Saints running the clock.
Morgan Lokie made two free throws, giving NSA a 42-37 lead, with 1:02 left.
After a Collegiate basket, NSA head coach Kim Aston called a timeout to help her side handle the Lady Cougar pressing. Aston’s gutsy call was to turn Collegiate’s press to a Lady Saint advantage.
Macy Mears launched a football pass to Birdsong. On the gridiron it would’ve been a post pattern for a touchdown. On the hardwood, Birdsong collected the pass and went in for a lay-up putting NSA’s victory away.
NSA got one more defensive stop, and Pieroni made two at the line for a 46-39 margin with 0:20 left.
Pieroni led the Lady Saints with 15 points along with four rebounds. Birdsong had 14 points and five boards. Lokie spurred NSA’s quick offensive strikes early on and went 5-for-6 at the foul line in the closing minutes. Lokie finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Four games into the young season, the Lady Saints had three lopsided wins and a three-point loss against Cox, so a close game against Collegiate, especially one in which the Lady Saints (4-1) pulled it out in the last couple minutes, should be valuable experience at this point of the schedule.