Dons rout the Eagles on the road
Inconsistency has been a theme of the recent run of games the Verdugo Hills girls Varsity basketball team have played since the delayed restart of the season. The Dons came into the contest against the Chavez Eagles having dropped two of the three games, losing to league leaders Arleta and Poly, with a win against North Hollywood sandwiched in between. This game against Chavez didn’t represent the toughest challenge that the Dons have faced this season, but it was a chance for the team to get back to basics. “We have been in a slump since we have ramped back up,” said Coach Kevin Peterson Henry about the girls’ play in the last three games. “We need to get back to focusing on the details. That is what will get us back to where we need to be.”
The identity of Verdugo Hills basketball all season has always started on the defensive end of the floor. In the Dons 12 victories this season, the team held the opponents to an average of 35 points per game. For this contest against Chavez, the defense would be a huge factor not only because it would lead to offensive success, but it was paramount to play well on the defensive end of the floor, because they would be playing this game without one of their Captains in sophomore guard Moriah Mosley. Mosley is the second leading scorer on the squad with a 13.8 average points per game.
Luckily, the leading scorer for the Dons is healthy and playing well in Nicole Vanegas; and she set the tone early and often for the Dons in the contest. She was opportunistic in the passing lanes grabbing 3 steals in the first quarter, while also shooting 4-6 from the field. Ayana Peterson-Henry was also a catalyst to the Dons getting off to a fast start as she padded the stat sheet, compiling 2 assists and a steal while also shooting 3-5 from the field. The co-captains scored 15 of the teams 17 first period points, while leading a defense that allowed Chavez one made basket on their way to a 17-4 lead at the end of the first.
The second period represented more of the same dominance, as the Eagles could not find any semblance of offense as the Dons continued to take away any easy looks at the basket. Vanegas continued to bolster Verdugo’s offense adding 6 points while also tallying 2 more steals. Victoria Vanegas slid into the facilitator role in the second quarter and added 3 assists, while hounding her matchup on the defensive end and creating easy opportunities for her teammates on the offensive end of the floor. By halftime, the Dons had all but the game out of reach, building a 30-7 lead at the break while only allowing Chavez two made baskets for the entire half.
In recent weeks when the Dons have had the advantage against an overmatched opponent, there has been a tendency to lose focus and allow teams to get back into games. Chavez unfortunately was not afforded that opportunity today, despite the second half of the game being played by mostly Verdugo’s reserves. The intensity and effort remained as consistent as when the captains were on the floor in the first half. Even with Nicole Vanegas and Ayana Peterson-Henry off the floor, The Dons defense did not skip a beat. The Chavez Eagles only managed to make two baskets in the second half, bringing their total for the game to four baskets total. When the final horn blared in the gymnasium, Verdugo Hills had cruised to a 52-16 win, with Chavez never scoring more than 7 points in any quarter.
While injuries can be a huge detriment to team continuity, it can also provide opportunity for young players to grow and become confident contributors. Lilly Opper, the freshman guard who stepped into the starting lineup in place of Mosley, had one of her best games as a Don. In the third quarter she was responsible for 9 of the team’s 13 points in the period, scoring 7 on her own and assisting on another basket. Opper finished the game with 10 points in total while holding her own on the defensive end of the floor. “Lilly is very talented, just very young,” said Coach Peterson-Henry on the effort from his young freshman guard. “She is one of three freshmen that we need to count on and an effort like the one she showed today can really help us as a team going forward.”
The Dons will attempt to build on this win and keep things moving in the right direction when they take the floor against the Grant Lancers at home on January 26th at 4 pm at the Barn.