VERNON — Trying to predict the Tri Valley League girls basketball race, is like predicting how well Syracuse men’s basketball will play. Good Luck!
Whenever one team looks like the class of the 2018-19 race, another team steps to the forefront and knocks them off.
There was another twist during Tuesday’s TVL crossover between New Hartford and VVS as the Red Devils were the stronger team throughout the final three quarters in cruising to a much-needed 60-48 victory.
Sophomore Morgan Brewer tallied 24 points and 10 rebounds, while senior center Alexa Kiser had 22 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks as the Red Devils bounced back from Friday’s 20-point defeat to Oneida to earn a big victory.
“This was a huge confidence boost for us,” Brewer said. “We are coming off big losses to Whitesboro and Oneida and we knew if we wanted to stay in the run for a good seed for sectionals that we needed to win this game.”
New Hartford’s phenomenal freshman Kaia Henderson still did her thing, scoring a game-high 25 points, but the Red Devils made her work for everything and held Section 3’s leading scorer under her 29.6 average.
“We knew coming in we had to contain Kaia,” VVS head coach Randy Thomas said. “She’s a great player, but we had to at least contain her. We knew she’d still score, but we did what we had to do to win the basketball game.”
In order to snap New Hartford’s five-game winning streak, Brewer knew it would take a team effort to disrupt Henderson, who already surpassed the 1,000-point milestone while just in her freshman season.
“Everyone from this area knows how good she is,” Brewer said. “Even if you play perfect defense, she probably will still get 20 points, because she’s that good of a player. But we definitely played well against her and didn’t allow her to create for her teammates and we shut them down. I think that was a big key, too.”
The Red Devils (5-3, 11-3) didn’t do a good job early executing their game plan as the Spartans jumped out to a 15-6 advantage behind Henderson’s 11 quick points.
The game was full of big momentum swings and huge runs and VVS gathered itself behind great play from Brewer. The sophomore wouldn’t let her team fall too far behind, scoring nine points in the quarter and the Red Devils closed to within 17-16 on a short jumper by Kiser.
Kiser and Brewer were back at it in the second, combining to score 13 as the Red Devils outscored the Spartans 20-10 to grab a nine-point advantage at the break. Point guard Anna Rossi (8 points) and wing Lindsey Foster also hit big 3-pointers to help VVS gain the advantage before the break.
However, the lead VVS worked hard to build, disappeared in a matter of a few minutes as Henderson scored six points in an 11-0 New Hartford run that gave the visitors a 37-36 advantage just 3:16 into the third.
Not backing down, VVS answered immediately with a 13-1 run fueled by two 3-pointers by Brewer and four points from Kiser to take the lead for good and build an 11-point (48-38) advantage with just eight minutes remaining.
After Kiser closed out the 13-1 run with a free throw in the opening seconds of the fourth, New Hartford made one final charge with a 6-0 run to pull to within 49-44 with 4:57 remaining.
“We never quit, but our shots weren’t going and we had some mental breakdowns,” said senior forward/center Abby Buchholz, who finished with seven points. “There’s a lot of little things we can work on, but we’ll be okay.”
Not panicking, Kiser hit a floater in the lane, then Rossi, who also had four steals and three assists, drove to the hoop for another bucket to spark an 11-0 run that ended the Spartans’ comeback hopes.
“The league is very competitive and the past couple of games we really haven’t been playing our best,” Kiser said. “We played a couple great minutes here and there but not really great games overall. So, tonight we really needed to come out, play our game and we really needed to keep our intensity up and play hard the entire game, because we needed this win.”
The loss knocks New Hartford (4-2, 10-2) into a virtual tie with rival Whitesboro in the TVL Colonial Division. The Spartans hope to get back on track when they host Camden Friday.
“We were outplayed, outhustled, everthing right down to the ‘T’,” New Hartford head coach Mike Callan said. “We just settled for shots, had no movement offensively and defensively were out of position … just a very poor game. They outcoached us and outplayed us.”
The win gives VVS an outside shot at catching TVL Pioneer-leading Oneida for the division title. More realistically, the victory gave the Red Devils some momentum after going just 3-3 after an 8-0 start. VVS will hope to continue to build on this victory when they travel to play at Rome Free Academy Friday night.
“I’m very proud of my kids. It’s a great team effort against a great basketball team,” Thomas said. “That’s a big confidence booster for us. Coming out of Oneida, they beat us bad, but I told our kids we’re still 11-3, and if we got this win here, it would bring us back to where we want to be. It was a big win for the whole team.”
VVS 60, New Hartford 48
New Hartford (4-2, 10-2): Kaia Henderson 7-9 25; Abby Buchholz 3-0 7; Jamie Sales 1-1 3; Lonnie Wadsworth 1-0 3; Safia Zaman 1-1 3; Kristen Sellars 1-0 3; Sophia Murray 1-0 2; Erica Sheaffer 1-0 2. Totals: 16-11-48. 3-Pointers: 5 (Henderson 2, Sellars, Buchholz, Wadsworth).
VVS (5-3, 12-3): Morgan Brewer 10-0 24; Alexa Kiser 7-8 22; Anna Rossi 3-1 8; Lindsey Foster 2-0 5; Alexis Cole 0-1 1. Totals: 22-10-60. 3-Pointers: 6 (Brewer 4, Rossi, Foster).
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org