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Verona Girls Beat MKA For Conference Title


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DonnaJo DiNorcia
DonnaJo DiNorcia soars. Photo: Bo Kirby

Everyone knew it was going to be intense. First were the stakes: A win for Verona meant a share of the Conference title. Then there was the revenge factor: Verona’s only blemish on its conference  record was a heartbreaking 1-point loss to the MKA Cougars on their home court earlier in the season. Adding fuel to the fire was the inevitable rivalry among residents from both teams who have played together for years on middle school and AAU teams. (Two MKA starters, Lauren Morisseau and Kim Kirnan, live in Verona and another, Ashley Bishop, was sidelined with an injury.) But this time, the spoils went to Verona, which pulled ahead to win 44-42 in the final seconds of play today on the Hillbilly court.

It’s the first time since 1976 that the Verona girls have claimed a Conference title, and the first championship for Patricia Hemsley-Cartotto, who started coaching the girls 13 years ago.  It’s still unclear whether the Hillbillies share the title or have won it outright. Though each team has only one loss in conference play, MKA has failed to play two conference games against Newark’s Technology High School, and must do so before Monday to claim a record equal to Verona’s. According to Hemsley-Cartotto, conference rules forbid playing two games in one day, meaning  MKA will fall short of the required games, giving Verona the title outright. However, MKA plans to appeal, based on the fact that one of games was canceled by Technology. A decision is expected to be made by Tuesday.  But whether they share the title or win it outright, itstill tastes sweet. “To say I am on cloud nine  is an understatement,” Hemsley-Cartotto said after the game.

Senior Day: (l-r) Mark, Beth and Erin Percevault; Ken, Gianna and Bernadette Pignatello; Lisa, Michelle and Mike Petronaci
Senior Day: (l-r) Mark, Beth and Erin Percevault; Ken, Gianna and Bernadette Pignatello; Lisa, Michelle and Mike Petronaci. Photo: Bo Kirby

Today’s victory was won by Verona’s outside shooters. With the front court duo of  Michelle Petronaci and Amanda Langan effectively double-teamed by a 2-3 defense,  Gianna Pignatello and DonnaJo DiNorcia picked up the slack with red-hot shooting. Pignatello was the game’s high scorer with 14, 12 of which came from three-pointers.  DiNorcia finished with 12;  Petronaci and Langan had 7 apiece.

For every outside bomb that Verona swished, however, there was an answer from MKA. The Cougars’ Blair Landolfi is one of the county’s leading scorers who can punish from down low or outside; six of her 14 points came from three-pointers. Diminutive freshman guard Kaitlyn Eda, who finished with 13, connected on steals, layups and outside shots. Going into the final period Verona was clinging to the lead, 34-33.

The game was decided in the last 20 seconds of play. With the score tied at 42-42, Petronaci stuffed an MKA shot attempt, Langan picked it up and burst down the court on a fast break and scored.  Watch the ensuing celebration below, and check out the video of the layup on MyVeronaNJ’s YouTube page. We’ve got more of Bo Kirby’s game photos on our Facebook page.

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Julia Martin Langan
Julia Martin Langanhttps://myveronanj.com
Julia Martin Langan moved to Verona in 1989. A long-time journalist, she has been on the staff of Money, Sports Illustrated, Bride’s and Redbook magazines. Her articles on health and parenting appear in a variety of national publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Self and Family Circle. She and her husband Greg have three school-aged children, and are members of Our Lady of the Lake Church. You can reach Julia at [email protected].


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