(VIDEO) Burton Leads South to Tournament Win Over North
By Nate Weitzer for Mass Prep Stars
NEWTON, Mass. – On Thursday night Newton South’s Veronica Burton and Newton North’s Sayawni Lassister would meet again, as the rival Newton programs went head-to-head in the Division 1 South Quarterfinals to write another chapter in the storied rivalry of friends and competitors.
The third-seeded Tigers hosted the No. 6 seed Newton South Lions in a premium Division 1 South matchup, and it was Burton whowas able to lead her team to a decisive 59-45 victory.
The star junior scored 30 points, pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds and added six assists to pace the Lions (18-4) past their rivals and earn the girls’ team a win over Newton North, only one night after the boys’ Newton South team defeated Newton North.
“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,” she added. “We came in fearless and everyone did their job.”
Newton North (17-4) defeated South 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. After [Burton] was in foul trouble during our first matchup. It was great to see them go back and forth.”
As is their modus operandi, the Lions opened the game by launching plenty of threes, but only connected on 2-of-11 attempts from long range while earning a 12-9 lead after one quarter.
In the second frame, Burton and company started to heat up. She created her own shot and drained three straight triples to make it 24-16, but Lassister came right back with a triple and a floater of her own to keep it close at 28-24 heading into halftime.
The teams traded baskets throughout the first half of the third quarter, but then the Lions were able to chase down offensive rebounds and kick it out for consecutive threes to make it 40-30 midway through the frame.
“Everyone on the team has the green light to shoot the three because everyone can make it,” said Burton. “That makes it really hard to stop defensively and everyone has confidence to shoot.”
While Lassister (31 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) made a push to get her team back within striking distance, Burton went coast-to-coast for an and-1 finish to make it 49-38 and exhort “You can’t stop her” chants from the Lions supporters.
“[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.”
With the win, the Lions will 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.”
Stars Who Shined
Veronica Burton‘18 G – From the opening tip, Burton was able to control the game on both ends of the floor with ferocious rebounding and excellent passing. She found her teammates throughout the first quarter and really got going in the second quarter, as she drained three consecutive triples to open up a 28-24 lead by halftime.
“Every morning before school I shoot. It’s definitely taken a lot of time to get that down and I’m still missing a lot but I’m going to keep working on it,” Burton said about her textbook move to step back and create space for threes.
Burton with the step-back 3-pointer in the third quarter.
Burton opened the second half by hitting two more threes after pulling off that impressive step back move and once the Lions defense started to collapse on her, she was able to find teammates Paige Ollivierre, Frankie Silva and Zoe Foster (6 points, 4 rebounds) for key triples.
“[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.”
Down the stretch, Burton came up with game-sealing plays by blocking Lassister on a lay-up attempt and stripping another Lions player after they had controlled an offensive rebound.
Burton goes coast-to-coast for the and-1 to put South up 49-38 mid Q4.
Then she hit two more foul shots to put the icing on the cake and finish with an even 30 points along with her second consecutive double double in the state tournament.
Sarah King ‘17 G – It was King who actually got the Lions offense going in the first quarter with a lay-up to open the scoring and a three to break the seal after they opened up 0-for-6 from distance.
She served as an important secondary ball handler to take some pressure off Burton and kept the ball moving by penetrating and kicking to shooters.
King nails a big 3-pointers - early (top video), followed by a triple from Silva late (below) - both on passes from Burton.
Saywani Lassister ‘17 G – While other players provided very valuable contributions on both sides of the ball, this game was really about Lassister (pictured below) and Burton going toe-to-toe.
The Tigers senior captain took on the task of guarding Burton late in the second quarter after the Lions star got hot from the perimeter, but for the most part, Newton North sat back in a matchup zone and struggled to close out on the Lions bevvy of perimeter shooters.
Yet every time South hit a big shot, Lassister would come the other way and either make a three of her own, or find a teammate as a very willing passer.
Lassiter nails a big 3-pointer in the second quarter.
“I think Say Say [Lassister] is every bit as good as advertised,” praised Rogers. “The game plan was to make it as difficult as possible for her and we really didn’t know what they were going to do defensively. We were hoping to be prepared for that and we wanted to get out and run because that’s what we’re best at.”
Lassiter with the big floater for Newton North.
Lassiter logged her 1,000th point in the first quarter and will head to Florida State next fall, as a potential impact player on an elite college team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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