By Matthew Snyder
Drew senior guard and team captain Victoria Verdan didn’t start in the Dragon’s 54-32 non-league win over Immaculate Conception on Monday after missing Saturday’s practice.
Verdan didn’t simply skip out on the session. She was undergoing tests to find out if she had suffered a concussion during Drew’s game against University the night before.
Despite the circumstances, first-year Drew head coach Nnenne Okereke has an iron-clad rule that if you miss practice, you can’t start the next game.
When Verdan finally entered the game, she wasted little time establishing herself as a game-changing presence.
The point guard scored four first-quarter points on the way to a game-high 18 and doled out four assists on the Dragons’ home court at Booker T. Washington Community Center.
ICA (3-1) entered the game undefeated, averaging just under 60 points per game while holding its opponents under 15.
The Spartans kept the game tight early and grabbed a 7-6 lead with 3:55 remaining in the first quarter after junior Cynthia Sosa-Cativo hit a three-pointer.
That shot prompted Okereke to call her first timeout. On the ensuing offensive possession, Drew (2-2) executed its dribble-handoff offensive set to perfection and got an easy layup to retake the lead. The Dragons did not trail again in the game.
“We pretty much just needed to start off with our intensity level being really high at the start of the game, and I think we did that and we kept that up the whole game,” Okereke said. “I just feel like my team was able to keep it together and execute on offense, and keep the defensive pressure up, which got us a lot of easy baskets and steals and things like that.”
Both teams endured sloppy play, including a back-and-forth sequence late in the second quarter with rapid turnovers at both ends. Despite its mistakes, Drew gradually wrested control of the game through a swarming half-court defense and tough rebounding.
Verdan also emerged as a calming force for the Dragons. She frequently broke ICA’s pressure defense with composed dribbling and got to the basket with a nifty array of shot fakes on the perimeter.
When ICA launched a third-quarter comeback cut and the Drew lead to 28-22, Verdan checked back into the game and promptly assisted fellow senior Nefertiti Rogers for a layup before hitting a runner in the lane to push the lead back to double digits.
Rogers and junior Amber Vidal enjoyed impressive all-around performances for Drew. Rogers finished with a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) and added four steals. Vidal had 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals, despite battling foul trouble for much of the second half.
“When [they’re] hot and they’re hitting their shots, it’s going to be a good game for us,” Okereke said.
The Spartans started two freshmen and no seniors, and didn’t have a player score more than five points.
“I know that [Verdan and Rogers] are seniors, and I know that they were their highest scorers [last season],” said ICA head coach Nicole Dinas. “I also saw their offensive rebounding stats from last year and they were pretty impressive . . . I think [we’re] coming along. Some coaches would say, ‘No way, you got rolled [tonight],’ but in my opinion, I’m starting to see some improvements with these young kids.”
Victoria Verdan – 18
Neff Rogers – 14
Amber Vidal – 11
Tamirah Gallaread – 6
Darby Ebeling – 4
Natalie Capanagan – 5
Cynthia Sosa-Cativo – 5
Lynelle Magat – 4
Clara Gibson – 4
Rothanne Herico – 4