CALDWELL, NJ - A late third quarter spark of offense propelled the Verona Girls Basketball Team to a 46-36 victory over previously undefeated West Essex and their second consecutive trip to the Holiday Tournament Finals.

“I told them we can play with them, they’re bigger, they’re a very good team [that’s] undefeated and we can play with a lot of teams when we play like that so that’s our potential,” said Verona Head Coach Jessica Schomaker.

Late in the third quarter down 28-25 Verona’s Brianna Horton took control of the game sending her squad on an 11-2 scoring run. Horton collected a trio of three-point shots and a jumper to put Verona up 36-30 at the end of the third quarter.

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“I think we just kept moving the ball around, I got an open shot and I just kept taking them…we just kept moving the ball around to get movement [into the paint] and that’s how I got so open,” said Horton.

Horton was able to finish the contest with a game-high 22 points on the afternoon. For Horton, this game is a mere glimpse of her potential on the court for Verona as a guard.

“I’ve been talking with [Horton] a lot about stepping up…I told her she’s a leader, she’s a captain I need her to take over and I think she did a great job of that tonight and that’s the Bri we need from here on out,” said Schomaker.

Verona’s upset victory would not be without a resilient effort from the squad as a whole stemming from a strong second quarter of play. Down 17-10 after the first frame, Desiree Meyer joined Horton in setting up a 9-2 run that changed the momentum of the contest.

“I think the girls were really resilient today and they didn’t give up no matter how many we were down and I’m really proud of them for that,” said Schomaker.

For Meyer, who collected eight points in the victory it’s been status quo for the junior forward. She’s averaged 16 points per-game in her last three contests for the Lady Hillbillies.

“[Meyer] can hit those threes anywhere so to have her hit those it just builds up our confidence,” said Horton.

The victory is one that Verona can build upon as the aforementioned Lady Knights came into the contest undefeated at 3-0. Verona will advance to the Holiday Tournament Finals and look to finish where they left off last year with a title.

“This was a huge win for us, they’ve been crushing teams by 20 or 30 points a game so I just think this is a morale boost for us,” said Schomaker.

Verona will play in the Championship Game against Caldwell on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Caldwell University.

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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