|Newton South's Veronica Burton dropped her second straight double double to lead her team over rival Newton North|
By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)
NEWTON, Mass. - Veronica Burton and Sayawni Lassister grew up playing on the same teams for their native town of Newton and now they’re the best players on fierce rivals in Newton South and Newton North.
The two stars traded blows while playing all 32 minutes in a Division 1 South showdown at No. 3 Newton North on Thursday night, but in the end, Burton’s sixth-seeded Lions proved stronger, as they earned a 59-45 victory to advance to the regional semifinals.
“[The Tigers] are very, very good and the score is deceiving in that we were never that comfortable,” said Lions head coach Joe Rogers.
Indeed, Newton South only led 28-24 at the break with Burton and Lassister trading blows, but were able to pull away in the third quarter by climbing on the back of their star junior.
Burton (30 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks) hit three consecutive threes in the second quarter and carried that momentum into the third by hitting two more deep triples off impressive setback moves.
When the Lions defense began to collapse on her, Burton was able to find teammates Paige Ollivierre, Frankie Silva and Zoe Foster (6 points, 4 rebounds) for key triples as South opened a 43-30 lead late in the third quarter.
“[Burton] is as good a passer as she is a scorer,” Rogers asserted. “She’s been making those great passes for years and she averaged about six assists per game this season. She’s really grown in terms of understanding the reads she has coming off ball screens as well.”
Lassiter kept her team in the game with 30 points in addition to eight rebounds, four assists and four steals, but Burton willed South to victory, effectively sealing the game by going coast-to-coast for an and-1 to make it 49-38 midway through the fourth quarter.
“[Lassister and I] used to play with each other on the same team back in fourth and fifth grade so it’s a lot of fun,” Burton said about the matchup. “She’s a great competitor and I look forward to the challenge of playing against her every year.”
Newton North (17-4) defeated South (18-4) during the regular season, but Burton was limited by foul trouble in that contest. For Lions head coach Joe Rogers, it was great to see his star show what she can do with a full slate of minutes, as she played all 32 in this tournament tilt.
“It was fun,” Rogers said about the showdown between Burton and Lassister. “That’s what I expected and what everyone hoped to see that after [Burton] was in foul trouble during our first matchup. It was great to see them go back and forth.”
On Wednesday, the Newton South boys’ basketball team took down Newton North in a first-round upset and the girls’ team followed suit for a rare sweep in this ongoing crosstown rivalry.
“South is usually the underdog between the two schools and it definitely lifted our spirits as a school,” Burton said about the wins. “Tomorrow should be very exciting. I’m proud of everyone on the team. We came in fearless and everyone did their job.”
Now the Lions advance to face either the reigning Division 1 champions in Bishop Feehan or a dynastic Braintree program that won three state championships prior to Feehan’s run last season.
“It doesn’t stop,” Rogers said about the tough draw. “After this one we get [Braintree or Feehan] and if we get that one we get Mansfield or Wellesley on the other side. We knew going in that the bracket is loaded and the depth of really good players is insane. Hopefully it will even out across the state at some point, but for now it’s really cool to be in that bracket and compete.”
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@masspreps Burton finds Silva for 3 to give NS a commanding 43-30 lead late Q3 pic.twitter.com/27B54OiVVN— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 3, 2017