Verdugo Hills takes care of business in The Barn

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On a night where the girls Varsity Volleyball were honored and received their City Championship rings, the Verdugo Hills Girls Varsity basketball took the floor for their home opener with an eye on City championship dreams of their own. The team is off to a good start, winning 7 of their first 10 contests, but this game represented a chance to make a clear statement. The Chatsworth Chancellors were unbeaten and came into the game the #2 ranked team in the Los Angeles City Section. A victory here would not only extend what has been a good start to the season, but a chance to notch a quality win that would propel Verdugo Hills into the conversation of who the best team in the city really is. The Dons did just that, as they took down their opponents in their home opener 49-35.

The game lived up to the lofty ranking of both teams at the outset, as the physical, grinding nature of the Chancellors matched the gritty and resolute style of Verdugo Hills. Both teams got after it on both ends of the floor, forcing tough looks at the basket, while crashing the boards on every missed shot. Neither team managed to shoot well from the field in the first quarter, going a combined 22 percent from the floor. The Dons found success behind the arc as Victoria Vanegas knocked down the frames only three-point field goal, which helped the Dons take a slim 12-8 lead by the end of the quarter.

The tide of the ballgame changed in the second quarter as Senior Guard Ayana Peterson-Henry led the team in wreaking havoc on the defensive end. Her effort led to altered shot attempts at the basket, while also managing to clog up passing lanes when the Chancellors attempted to reverse the ball looking for openings that didn’t exist. Moriah Mosley hounded the Chatsworth ball handlers, making it hard to find ways to get the ball to the Chatsworth forwards down on the block. Nicole Vanegas did an excellent job staying home on the Chancellors sharpshooters, so when the double teams came against the Chatsworth post players, there were no clear places to pass the ball. “Our defense is our anchor. We really have improved defensively since last season, and we continue to improve,” said Dons Head Coach Kevin Peterson-Henry after the game, when asked about his captains’ impact on the defensive end of the floor. “Moriah is such a tough on-ball defender, Nicole is especially tough on shooters. Ayana is strong guarding anyone 1-5 and protecting the rim.”

The strong defensive efforts of the Verdugo Hills “Big 3” led to Chatsworth shooting a paltry 2-16 from the field in the period, and just 6-33 in the first half. The Dons offense was bolstered by 2 three-pointers off the bench by Lilly Opper as the Verdugo Hills took a 29-15 lead into the break.

As the second half began, the aggressive style of play by the Dons began to take its toll. The lead remained intact as the quarter progressed, but the foul calls began to add up. The Dons defense kept the Chancellors from converting from the field, as their struggles continued with only 2 made baskets the entire quarter. The only reason the Dons lead did not expand during this period was the amount of free throw attempts that Chatsworth began to pile up. The Chancellors went to the line 10 times in the third, making 7 of those attempts.

The fourth quarter presented more of the same as both teams struggled from the floor. The teams combined, shot a hair under 25% from the field in the final period of play. What kept the score respectable for Chatsworth were the number of free throws they attempted in the second half. Chatsworth got into the penalty early and often, shooting 4-9 from the line in the fourth, while going 11-19 from the charity stripe for the entire half. “We reach too much and often we are over-aggressive, but I don’t want them to pull back on that,” said Coach Peterson-Henry on his team’s foul accumulation in the game. “I want them to stay aggressive on every possession. We’re going to foul, and I’d prefer we didn’t, but we are so good when we have that aggressive mentality.”

Verdugo Hills will have a day off to recharge before they hit the road again for another tough contest against the Taft Toreadors on December 16th at 4pm.

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