VERONA, NJ - Up by two points midway through the second quarter the Verona Girls Basketball Team knew it would need to swing the momentum in their favor. Their prayers would be answered as a 10-4 scoring run sparked the team to an eight point halftime lead and eventual 57-37 win over Newark Academy to earn a trip into the ECT.
“This is a big win for them, they wanted it, they were hyped up…they really came out and showed us they wanted it [and] it’s an honor to be playing in the first round [of the Essex County Tournament],” said Verona Head Coach Jess DelVecchio.
Verona was sparked in their second quarter run by sophomore Brianna Horton. Horton collected six of her nine points in the frame to help lead the Lady Hillbillies to victory.
“I just think we brought more intensity and more aggressiveness. We were ready to play and started making our shots,” said Horton.
As the third quarter opened up the game was still very much hanging in the balance. A stifling Verona defense blanked the Newark Academy offense for the first half of the third enabling a key scoring run for the Lady Hillbillies. The results on the back-side for Verona is directly indicative of hard work in practice according to their coach.
“Defense is what we’ve been working on since the beginning. I told them defense wins games, you can have the worst offensive day and defense is what’s going to win it for us. I think the defensive intensity was phenomenal today…they were all over the floor,” said DelVecchio.
As the defense shut down the Newark Academy offense, Verona received a boost from their own offense by way of Dez Meyer. Meyer notched six of her 13 points in the third quarter to stake Verona to a seemingly insurmountable 13 point lead.
“Everybody is so worried about her whether she is on or not that three people will run at her and it opens up for others…to have her on is tremendous, but just to have her out there is just as good for us just because of what she brings,” said DelVecchio.
Verona closed out the game in the fourth by allowing just four more points for the contest. Amber Reed who is described as a vocal leader on the team proceeded to dominate the paint in the fourth quarter with seven of her game high 15 points.
The eventual 57-37 victory gives Verona their seventh win in a row improving the team to 13-5 on the year. The 15th seeded Lady Hillbillies will travel to two-seeded University High School looking to play underdog and make a run at a County Title.
“We have to embrace [the underdog mentality], we’re going to bring more intensity and we’re going to try and surprise them,” said Brianna Horton.
For Verona, the low seed in the tournament enables them to play with nothing to lose according to their coach.
“For us there’s no expectations, there’s nothing to lose so we’ll give it our all,” said DelVecchio.