By Matthew Yoder
Northampton fought off a slow start on the road to defeat Chincoteague 48-34 last Friday. The first half was scrappy, and points were hard to come by for both teams. Seemingly every possession and shot was contested and neither team separated itself, with Northampton carrying the slimmest of leads into the second half.
What became increasingly clear as the teams emerged from the break was a heightened focus by Northampton on defense, creating a number of steals leading to easy points. Neyana Delk carried the Yellow Jackets in the first half with 12 points, and raised her effort in the third quarter. Delk slowed Chincoteague’s movement on offense, stealing the ball at will and driving hard for layups.
Lindsay O’Shea made back-to-back baskets for Chincoteague, first on the receiving end of a great pass from Alanna Hall, then following a miss from Emma Jackson. The points put O’Shea in double figures with 10, and more importantly put her team in the lead 23-22.
Delk answered with a dribble drive through the paint to retake the lead for Northampton, then followed with yet another steal and layup. The score forced a Chincoteague timeout.
For Northampton coach Devin Allen, the focus on defense was paramount in turning the tide of the game.
“We weren’t playing our game at first, but our defense will always lead to our offense,” Allen said.
The defense persisted and the Yellow Jackets started to create distance from the Ponies. Chincoteague’s passing was poor at times, and Delk’s play culminated with a pair of layups to end the quarter, one in which she finished with 10 points and Northampton’s lead grew to 8.
The fourth quarter remained physical. Chincoteague matched Northampton’s intensity, as Hall and Jackson tallied emphatic blocks on Delk and Jada Giddens of the Yellow Jackets. The Ponies rebounded the ball well at times, but failed to effectively cut into the Yellow Jackets’ lead.
Giddens played strong for Northampton in the paint, creating another scoring option for Chincoteague to defend. She notched 8 points in the quarter, and finished with 15. She defended aggressively much of the night and was even called for a flagrant foul late in the quarter on Hall. The intensity of the game was palpable from the sidelines. Coaches petitioned refs, players defended tightly, fans voiced their opinions, but in the end the Yellow Jackets emerged victorious, and head into the holiday break as the early team to beat on the Shore this season.
Chincoteague coach Jimmy Bloxom recognizes his team needs to correct issues to compete moving forward. “We didn’t make any shots, you gotta play defense or they (Northampton) are going to get easy shots,” said Bloxom.