VERONA, NJ - The Verona Hillbillies girls basketball team used a strong defense and timely shooting to nab their first victory of the season going 41-25 over Boonton on Monday, and also earning Head Coach Samantha Battista her first win.

    “It was good, we needed it after the loss Friday and it felt good that it was in our house to take that win and find the momentum I thought we needed it,” said Battista. 

    The Verona alumnus was able to get her first head coaching win on the very court that she played on for several years.

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    “I’m really happy for [Coach Battista] getting her first win, especially since she played here.  It’s awesome that she could get the victory here,” said Melanie Naeris. 

    The Verona squad used a full court press for a majority of the game causing unrest in the Bomber offense. The group took an early lead and continued to create extra possessions off the poor ball handling of the Bombers. Verona got out to a 16-10-halftime lead thanks to eight of those turnovers forced in that frame.

    “The press was really working, so we were able to get a lot of steals off of that and stay on offense as long as possible so that helped,” said Naeris.

    In the third quarter Verona finally pulled away from Boonton with a double-digit lead. Melanie Naeris collected five of her game-high 15 points in the third to help Verona to a 29-18 lead. She also collected an unofficial half-dozen steals.    

    “[Naeris] is so aggressive, she’s so tough.  Everything she does is such an asset to this team,” said Battista. 

    Verona’s defense has been a staple for the squad on the young season and will be a key factor for the group’s success this year. 

    “All day long from the second we went up I said the intensity has to be high and they brought that every single quarter,” said Battista.

    A key unsung hero was Maddie Leonard. The senior collected a few steals in the first to create additional scoring opportunities for the squad. She scored all four of her points during the opening quarter. 

    “[Leonard] played the most incredible defense that I’ve seen from her yet,” said Battista.

    Verona will turn their sights to the annual Holiday Tournament upcoming with Caldwell, Cedar Grove and West Essex. The now 1-1 Hillbillies will look to turn this momentum into a Holiday tournament championship.

    “We want to hang onto this one, but we have a lot of work to do, we have the Holiday Tournament starting on Friday and that’s always an intense, high-energy situation so we have to bring our energy to that,” said Battista.

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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