Young Seneca Valley Girls Team Earns Thrilling First Victory
It wasn’t easy, but satisfying wins never are.
Someone was going to get their first win Monday night at Seneca Valley, as Seneca Valley took on Northwood in a most exciting meeting of two winless teams. The Lady Eagles wanted to make sure it was them and not the visiting Gladiators, as Seneca Valley held on to win 45-43.
The young Eagles team, which started four sophomores and a junior, were led by junior captain Bryanna Mejia, who is playing her first season at the varsity level. While she only had three-first half points, she finished with 12 points including two second-half three-pointers. She also went four-for-eight from the foul line.
In a nip and tuck game from the opening tip, the teams played to a 21-all tie at halftime. As the third quarter came to an end, the Gladiators held a one point lead 34-33, thanks in large part to Northwood’s sophomore Haja Sannoh, who had seven of her total of 15 points in the third quarter.
With 1:14 remaining in the game Seneca Valley led by one point, 41-40 until Northwood’s senior guard Vanessa Santos was able to get a bucket off a misplayed ball at mid-court with 62 seconds remaining in the game. Now, the Lady Eagles were down 42-41 and sophomore Lexi Opdenaker, who had only two points all game added a huge free-throw on the front end of a one-and-one to tie the game at 42-42 with 44.7-seconds remaining.
The final hectic 40 seconds of this game would see Seneca Valley steal the ball twice but be unable to convert to break the tie until Mejia and fellow captain Amber Gary were able to strip the ball from Northwood’s Medelia Adhanom near mid-court. Gary threw the ball up to fellow sophomore Aaliyah Cheatham, who drove the key while being triple-teamed to get a layup to give the Lady Eagles a two-point lead with 21.5-seconds remaining.
Northwood senior Erica Hodge would hit the back-end of a one-and-one from the line to cut the lead to one point with 19.4 seconds remaining. However, the young Eagles team would commit a dumb foul and send Northwood junior Jackfille Pierre back to the line. The Seneca Valley faithful held the breath at both shots would bounce in and out of the basket. The Eagles held a tenuous one-point lead with 18.9 seconds remaining.
On the inbound, Coach Hoffman’s third captain sophomore Stephanie Vigezzi would bring the ball up past mid-court and control it at the edge of the key as seconds ticked down. With under 10 seconds left, she passed it to fellow captain Amber Gary who was quickly fouled. Gary stood at the foul line with 7.4 seconds remaining a chance to extend the lead. She would hit the first and miss the second. Gary finished with seven points for the game, but none was bigger than that last one from the foul line.
Northwood would inbound and quickly get the ball down the court to the senior Santos, who worked her way to a decent look at the basket but was unable to get the floater drop in the hoop as time ran out.
“This means a lot,” said Seneca Valley Head Coach Jennifer Hoffmann. “For them to finally get a win is big, just for the fact that they are coming together as a team. We have a lot of new faces and the experience level is low, but they never give up. They are scrappy no matter what the score is, whether we are winning or losing, they never give up. They are diving on the floor, and doing anything they can to bring about a victory. For them to finally get there, in the sixth game of the season and earn a win. I am ecstatic. It is huge for them.”
With a record of 1-5, Seneca’s next challenge will be playing in the Churchill Holiday Tournament over break, as primers for a big game against cross-town rivals Northwest after the holiday break on Friday, January 8 at Northwest.
Top: Seneca Valley’s only senior Wanitta Belleh (12) goes up for one of her 11 points in the Lady Eagles’ first victory of the season over Northwood 45-43 on Monday night.
Next: Junior captain Bryanna Mejia (2) drops a long range three-pointer in the third quarter of Monday’s victory. She would lead Seneca with 12 points in the game.
Next: Sophomore Lexi Opdenaker (13) makes a foul shot to tie the game at 42 with 44.7 seconds remaining.
Next: Sophomore forward Aaliyah Cheatham collects a pass from Amber Gary and beats a triple-team for a layup to give Seneca Valley the lead in the final 21 seconds of the game.
Next: Sophomore captain Amber Gary makes a foul shot with just 7.3 seconds to extend the lead to two points and seal the victory for the Lady Screaming Eagles.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.