NUTLEY, NJ - It takes four quarters to put together a championship effort and the Verona girls basketball team did just that on Saturday with an impressive 41-30 Essex County Tournament upset victory over eight seeded Nutley.

“I am really proud of them.  They beat a really good team today,” said Verona Head Coach Jessica Schomaker.

The Verona squad held to a close three point lead heading into the final quarter up 27-24. The next scoring run for either team could decide the contest, and refusing to be denied a victory the Lady Hillbillies responded by doubling their Nutley counterparts production in rebounds and tripling their forced turnover rate for the quarter.

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“I just told them people were open, they were trying to stop the drive, I told them to play as a team, play together, play Verona basketball and I think that’s what we did and we went on a run when we needed it the most,” said Schomaker.

Verona, aided by points from Kylee Gallagher and Cecilia "CC" Courter, proceeded to go on a 14 to seven fourth quarter run to seal the upset victory over Nutley. The duo combined for 20 of the team’s 41 points on the evening with 13 coming in the final quarter. For Verona, the victory is a sheer result of wanting it bad enough as a unit.

“We just all played together, we stayed composed, we knew this was something we wanted so we had a lot of tenacity going into it,” said Gallagher.

Verona set the pace from the start of the contest with fierce work on defense and the glass. The squad, who often is handicapped by their lack of size managed to out rebound Nutley’s taller team in the first by a total of six to four and a game total of 18 to 14 for the contest.

“I told them to box out like your life depends on it…[Gallagher] and [Okafor] both did a phenomenal job today,” said Schomaker.

Forward Desiree Meyer, who was hampered by a knee injury, battled through the pain to collect eight first-half points in route to a game-high 13 for the contest. Meyer continues to be a perimeter threat for the Verona team, which continues to scheme and devise ways to get her the open jump shot.

“She wanted it, when this team wants something they are a totally different team and they wanted it today and even though she got a knee to her leg she said ‘I can play through it I’m fine’…she played great,” said Schomaker.

Verona’s victory improves the Lady Hillbillies to 13-6 on the season as they’ve now won four of their last six contests. The group will likely head to top seeded University in the semifinals of the ECT. The victory has now brought the squad further in ECTs than in recent history as they proceed to enjoy the experience.

“We’ll just go down there, take it for the experience, it’s the first time in a long time if ever and we’ll play them as good as we can and try to limit them to the least amount of points and I told them you never know what’s going to happen,” said Schomaker.

All photos by Nick Teodoro. 

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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