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Verona's girls basketball team, which has reached North 1, Group 1 sectional final vs. Midland Park Tuesday night and also won Super Essex Conference-Independence Division title, is led by its strong core group, including, from left, Sarah O'Neil, Julie Rosenberg, Remy Sullivan, Brielle Cummings, Claire Fitzpatrick and Caroline Kiernan. (Photos by Bill Allen- see njsportaction.net)
Verona Girls Reach N1G1 Final
VERONA- Jessica DelVecchio has preached two basic aspects in her Verona girls basketball team’s fundamental approach to success since Day 1.
And, the distinct message about the importance of both rebounding and free throw shooting has clearly been absorbed and personified in the way the Hillbillies (19-7) have played all season long and especially in Friday night’s North 1, Group 1 state sectional semifinal 49-35 victory over Saddle Brook (23-7).
Second-seeded Verona out-rebounded the third-seeded Falcons, 30-21, and connected on 15 of 23 free throws, including an impressive 12 of 16 in the fourth quarter en route to a 49-35 victory before a large gathering in the Hillbillies’ gymnasium, which was an entertaining first game of the much-anticipated evening of hoops that was followed by the N1G1 boys semifinal between local rivals Cedar Grove and Verona.
The Hillbilly girls, who will now play at top-seeded Midland Park, in Tuesday night’s N1G1 state sectional final at 7 p.m., took full advantage of Saddle Brook continually sending them to the charity stripe in the fourth quarter while the Falcons tried to claw back into the contest which Verona led fairly comfortably throughout, and the ‘Billies did a consistently solid job on the boards, led by senior tri-captains Brielle Cummings (19 points, 7 rebounds) and Julie Rosenberg (5 points, 8 rebounds).
“Boxing out in order to be able to get your fair share of rebounds and making free throws consistently are so important and our girls have bought into focusing on those two area every day, whether it’s in practice or once the game starts,” said DelVecchio, who along with assistant coach Katie DiTrani have done a superb job in guiding the Verona girl hoopsters this season. “When you focus on basic but very fundamental areas and then perform well in those aspects of the game it usually translates well in terms of success on the court.”
Cummings, a veteran guard, who shares captain duties with the forward Rosenberg and fellow senior backcourt performer Remy Sullivan (four points in Friday night’s game), was particularly strong at the foul line in the fourth quarter when she sank all six of her attempts from the stripe and scored 12 of her game-high 19 points) and Verona held fort against a late-game surge by the Falcons, who never got any closer than six points, 32-26, on an offensive rebound and putback by forward Brianna Brooks with 5:04 remaining.
Cummings responded on the other end a half minute later with her own very timely offensive rebound and bucket to get the ‘Billies’ lead back up to eight and the home team was on its way to closing the door on any comeback attempt by the Falcons.
“When we rebound well and we make our free throws we usually have a good game overall,” said Cummings. “Plus, the rebounding edge helps us gain the offensive advantage as we’re able to push the ball upcourt quickly and get right into our offense.”
Verona also did a very good job in terms of controlling tempo throughout the game with Saddle Brook, not rushing shots against a zone implemented early on by Falcons’ coach Darren White, and then taking its time even against the man-to-man defense in the second half, especially with a fairly comfortable lead.
“We’ve worked all year on controlling tempo,” added DelVecchio. “I told the girls tonight that it’s our house, it’s our court and we control the tempo and win the game.
“There is just no need to rush anything, and the girls bought into that while showing some very good patience with the ball.”
Another noticeable aspect with the Hillbilly girls is the fact that they effectively share the ball, and even though Cummings had the majority of the points on Friday night, others were there to help contribute, including sophomore swing Sarah O’Neil with 11 points, including five key free throws, and Rosenberg, junior guard Claire Fitzpatrick and sophomore forward Caroline Kiernan with five apiece.
“We’re good passers and we enjoy sharing the ball,” said Cummings. “No one is shellfish out there and we’re always looking around for someone who is in a better position to take a good shot.”
Neither Verona nor Saddle Brook had any success making a basket as Friday night’s game began as the first basket was not scored until Saddle Brook’s Brooks scored nearly five minutes into the first quarter and Verona didn’t score until O’Neil sank a 3-pointer with just 27.8 seconds left in the opening stanza.
However, after leading by just one, 13-12, at the half, Verona took control of the game with a 14-4 edge in the third quarter with five different girls scoring, including Cummings with five points and Fitzpatrick with four.
Meanwhile, on defense, Verona did a solid job against Saddle Brook’s best player, 5-11 forward Taylor Harmon, limiting the Falcons’ standout to 12 points before she fouled out with 1:06 remaining in the fourth, and just two free throws in the pivotal third quarter when the ‘Billies mounted their decisive charge.
“We used a box-in one on Harmon and Claire (Fitzpatrick) did a real nice job defensively,” said DelVecchio. “All our girls responded well on the defensive side and it was only in the fourth quarter (when Saddle Brook scored 19 of their 35 points) that we let them score much, and –fortunately- we had already built a decent lead (28-16) after three.”
GAME NOTES- Verona captured the Super Essex Conference-Independence Division championship this season with a 12-2 record, two games ahead of second-place Bloomfield (10-4)…On the season, Verona entered Friday night’s N1G1 semi averaging 44.8 points per game while allowing 32 per contest…DelVecchio is a former standout volleyball and basketball player at The Montclair Kimberley Academy…Assistant coach DiTrani is a former Verona standout player….Verona knocked off both (15) Waldwick (58-29) and (10) Emerson Boro (43-35) on consecutive nights (Tuesday and Wednesday, March 4 and 5) in the North 1, Group 1 first round and then in the quarterfinals....Midland Park defeated fourth-seeded Belvidere, 61-27, in Friday night's other N1G1 state sectional semifinal.
North 1, Group 1 state sectional semifinal:
(3) SADDLE BROOK (23-8) 2 10 4 19 -35
(2) VERONA (19-7) 3 11 14 20 -49
Saddle Brook: Cherie Smedlie 1-1-0-5, Jamie Latona 1-0-0-2, Taylor Harmon 2-2-2-12, Cassandra Winnie 3-0-1-7, Brianna Brooks 3-0-1-7, Katie Garbarino 1-0-0-2, Karissa Quimey 0-0-0-0, Alexa Busi 0-0-0-0. Totals: 11-3-4-35
Verona: Julie Rosenberg 0-1-2-5, Claire Fitzpatrick 2-0-1-5, Brielle Cummings 6-0-7-19, Sarah O’Neil 0-2-5-11, Caroline Kiernan 2-0-1-5, Remy Sullivan 2-0-0-4. Totals: 12-3-16-49
STATE SECTIONAL FINALS, MONDAY, MARCH 10:
NORTH JERSEY, SECTION 1
NORTH JERSEY, SECTION 2
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Verona's girls basketball team was SEC-Independence Division champion
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