Balance, defense key for VSN


While Valley Stream North’s offense continues to be a work in progress, the Lady Spartans’ defensive effort has led the way to six wins in 10 games including a methodical 28-12 Conference A-IV victory over visiting Roosevelt last Friday night.

“It might not be picture-perfect, but we’re getting the job done and finding ways to win most nights,” coach Geoff O’Connell said. “I anticipated a lot of learning to take place this season, and we’re learning every game.

“Tonight was a challenge because Roosevelt plays defense different than any other team,” he added. “They use a 1-1-3 that forces you to move the ball around the perimeter and either take outside shots or try to force the ball inside.”

Senior Lauren Collura, who ranks among Nassau County’s leaders in three-point field goals with 23, drained three against Roosevelt for a game-high nine points. Four other Lady Spartans — Alexis Contreras, Julia LoSchiavo, Sarah Miller and Luci Ruddick — chipped in four points apiece as they improved to 3-2 in conference play. “We might not be scoring as much as we’d like to, but the balance we’re getting is a positive,” O’Connell said. “We don’t have an overwhelming scorer, but we’re getting a bunch of kids into the scoring column.”

Collura, who is averaging 9.2 points per game, poured in a career-high 18 in a loss at Island Trees on Jan. 8. “She’s really stepped up,” O’Connell said. “She hit some big threes tonight and was right around the rim on some others.”

North led 10-4 after the first quarter and extended its advantage to 17-8 at halftime. And it continued its dominance in the fourth, outscoring the Lady Rough Riders by a 5-1 margin. “We’ve been strong in the fourth quarter all season,” O’Connell said. “The girls never give up.”

In their previous game, the Lady Spartans closed a double-digit deficit at Island Trees down to three with 1:20 remaining before falling short in a 43-37 decision. Brianna Wilson (19 points) sealed the outcome for the Lady Bulldogs, who led 26-18 at halftime. “She’s having a great season,” O’Connell said of Wilson. “We had the game in our grasps. We’ve played a lot of good quarters this season, but I’m still waiting for a full 32-minute game.”

Contreras added nine points and Danielle Evangelista had five for North, which closed December on a three-game winning streak including back-to-back major comebacks against conference foes. O’Connell’s squad erased an 11-point deficit after three quarters against West Hempstead for a 43-37 win, then rallied from 12 down with just eight minutes to go to knock off Clarke, 40-38.

“We had 21 points in the fourth against West Hempstead, and 20 points in the fourth against Clarke,” O’Connell said. 

Senior Dana Morgante had 14 points and five assists in the win over West Hempstead that saw the Lady Spartans go on an 18-0 run in the second half. Against Clarke, Contreras hit two free throws with nine seconds remaining to break a tie. Junior Chelsea Alexander-Taylor had a big effort with 10 points and nine rebounds.