UTICA – The Vernon-Verona-Sherrill girls basketball team showed the ability to fight through adversity during Friday night’s game at Notre Dame.
The Red Devils’ leader Alexa Kiser picked up three early fouls and had to sit for the final 9:08 of the opening half as the Jugglers built a sizeable advantage.
Trailing by as many as 11 in the second quarter, sophomore Morgan Brewer scored 15 points in the final 7:04 of the half to help the Red Devils close within two at the break. After halftime, Kiser scored 16 points and the Red Devils remained unbeaten with a 61-49 victory to stay atop the Tri Valley League Pioneer standings.
“This game was huge especially coming to Notre Dame and winning an away game,” Brewer said. “(Notre Dame) played an amazing game and being down two at the half we realized this was not us. We knew we could play much better and if we got back in our mindset we could pull it out.”
Brewer finished with 17 points, while Lindsey Foster and Anna Rossi had 13 and 11, respectively for the Red Devils (3-0, 8-0), who are ranked No. 5 in the latest New York State Class B rankings.
“I definitely think when Lex got those three fouls right off the bat we all kind of realized we have to step up and knock down shots,” Brewer said. “I really wasn’t hitting a lot from the outside so I kind of told myself I have to cut to the middle, get fouled and make my foul shots.”
Kiser, who pulled within 55 points of the 1,000-milestone, thought Brewer’s effort in the final minutes of the first half was a huge turning point and allowed the team to play their game coming out in the second half.
“It was really huge,” Kiser said. “We needed her. I feel like every game our third quarter is our best quarter and we know that. We were only down two and we knew we could beat them if we just played our game. This year they’re just stepping up and taking on a leadership role,” Kiser added about her supporting cast. “They’re just doing an amazing job. We’re 8-0 and they’re doing amazing.”
Notre Dame was led by senior center Emma Sehring, who poured in a game-high 22 points. Hayley Heffernan had four 3-pointers (12 points) and Ajla Sejdic scored 10 for the Jugglers (1-4, 1-5).
Early on, the Jugglers full-court pressure forced numerous VVS turnovers and empty possessions, helping the home team build a quick lead. The key offensively for Notre Dame was at the foul line as the Jugglers held a 7-0 advantage in the first quarter in building a 10-7 lead.
Just as Brewer carried the second quarter for the Red Devils, Foster led the way by scoring all seven VVS points in the first eight minutes.
After a pair of free throws by Brewer, who went 8-for-8 in the second quarter, pulled VVS within 10-9, the Jugglers went on a 10-0 run as a pair of three-pointers by Heffernan and four points by Sehring gave Notre Dame a 20-9 lead with three minutes remaining until the break.
That’s where Brewer started the key run that changed the entire momentum of the game. Brewer took over in scoring 13 points in the final 2:37 of the half, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that closed out a 7-0 run to make it 24-22 as the teams entered the locker rooms.
“That was the turning point,” Notre Dame head coach Olivia Tooley said of the final few minutes of the first half. “And we didn’t handle it well in the second half. We didn’t match their intensity. But we are a basically young team and we’ll work on things and we’ll improve.”
Instead of facing a double-digit deficit, the Red Devils were down just a bucket and came out of the locker room with tremendous intensity. Led by Kiser (nine points) and Foster (six points), the Red Devils outscored the Jugglers 19-5 in the decisive third.
The Red Devils clamped down defensively in the quarter and scored the opening six points to finish off a 13-0 run. Following a wing 3-pointer by Sejdic that pulled the Jugglers to within one point, the Red Devils steadily pulled away as they closed out the third with a 13-2 run to grab a 41-29 lead.
In the fourth, Notre Dame fought hard and found some offensive rhythm in scoring 20 points and pulling within seven points on a few occasions.
However, seven early points by Kiser and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch by point guard Anna Rossi, who hit 9-of-10 from the stripe in the final 1:16, closed out the victory.
VVS head coach Randy Thomas was proud of the total team effort his squad displayed in the comeback.
“When Lex got herself in foul trouble I think were very lucky to be where we were at the half,” Thomas said.
“Everybody stepped up. Morgan hit some huge shots for us, Lindsey Foster stepped up big for us today and others did as well. I think that’s a big key to where we are this year at this time compared to last year. … We can rely on more people. I’m so proud of them with the way they came out and played hard.”
This game was a microcosm of much of Notre Dame’s season. The Jugglers have shown glimpses of great play, followed by long stretches in which they’ve struggled on both ends of the court.
“We definitely get to points in the game where we’re just tired,” Sehring said. “And honestly we’re just a young team. We’re inexperienced and little by little we’re learning to just push through it. We just have to find something to bring us together. Our team is young and we have to figure it out.”
VVS 61, Notre Dame 49
VVS (3-0, 8-0): Morgan Brewer 4-8 17; Alexa Kiser 6-4 16; Lindsey Foster 6-0 13; Anna Rossi 1-9 11; Lindsay Carrier 1-0 2; Brook Andrews 0-2 2. Totals: 18-23-61. 3-Pointers: 2 (Brewer, Foster).
Notre Dame (1-4, 1-5): Emma Sehring 6-10 22; Hayley Heffernan 4-0 12; Ajla Sejdic 3-2 10; Franchesca LaConti 1-0 3; Lily Sehring 1-0 2. Totals: 15-12-49. 3-Pointers: 7 (Heffernan 4, Sejdic 2, LaConti).
JV: Notre Dame 43-33.