EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 21, 2014

The 'other' Vonleh making a name, too

Whittier's 6-3 center a whiz at blocking shots

Girls Basketball
Christopher Smith

---- — Indiana University 6-10, 240-pound superstar basketball player Noah Vonleh of Haverhill has a size 17 foot.

His sister, Whittier Tech 6-3 junior Samnell Vonleh, isn’t far behind. She wears a size 15. And yes, that’s a men’s 15.

“They (doctors) always told me I’d be 5-11,” Samnell said. “But I don’t mind being tall.”

Well, Samnell — who has grown approximately three inches since entering high school — is fine with it, except for the whole shoe thing. She admits she has trouble finding shoes her size. But her height and defensive ability has helped her receive interest so far from multiple Division I and II programs, including the University of Maine, UMass Lowell and Merrimack College.

She wants to follow in her brother’s footsteps by playing in college. She certainly gains motivation from watching Noah play at Indiana.

“We’re pretty close,” Samnell said. “I’m proud of how he’s doing over there. They had a win the other day (over No. 3 Wisconsin) and he did really good (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks). Everyone’s always talking about it and I’m just really proud he got to where he wanted to be and he’s going to go further.”

Samnell certainly has an uncommon name, which is a combination of her father’s and mother’s names, Samuel and Renell.

Also uncommon ... the total number of shots she has blocked in several games over the past two years.

The strength of Samnell’s game is her defense and shot blocking ability. Samnell — who averages 8.8 points per game — blocked 12 shots in addition to her 16 points and 16 rebounds in Whittier’s 71-62 win over Somerville on Dec. 16.

She puts a lot of hard work into her defense.

“In the offseason, I played AAU and that helps,” she said. “The different stuff you do at practice, the drills, helps with defense. Just keeping my hands up and moving my feet instead of reaching.”

Vonleh is one of five Whittier juniors, including Michaela Martin, Kayla Riley, Andrea Terranova, and Dominique Ortiz who are returning starters from last year.

The team’s goal is to win the Division 4 North final and make it to the state semifinals at the TD Garden after losing in the North final last year.

“We’ve definitely gotten a lot better from last year,” Vonleh said. “Our defense is so strong. And our returning players, we all got better at different things like shooting and the offense got a lot better. And I think my post game got a lot better.”

ANDOVER CORRECTION

In last week’s column, it incorrectly stated that Andover is 0-5 against rival Central Catholic since the beginning of last year.

The Golden Warriors won their game at home against the Raiders last year so the record stands at 1-4.

SURGING REGGIES

Escarlin Reynoso is Greater Lawrence’s offensive MVP. But with Reynoso sitting out Friday because of a discipline issue, 5-8 junior forward Jasmine Severino stepped up to score 12 points in a win over Lynn Tech.

Severino also scored 12 points in a recent win over Chelsea.

“She’s come out strong,” coach Tara Mansour-Neilon said. “She can go inside. She’s lanky. She’s tough and strong. She goes to the basket strong. And she’s quick.”

ROSS NETS 14

Haverhill has struggled so far this year with just two wins, one against New Hampshire Division III Sanborn (1-8) and the other against Division IV Derryfield (5-3).

The young squad lost this week to MVC foes Andover, Methuen and Lawrence but there have been some bright spots for the Hillies — one being 5-6 senior guard Theresa Ross who netted 14 points, including two 3-pointers, against Lawrence in a losing effort.

“She one of our senior captains,” said first-year Haverhill coach Melissa Tarpy. “She’s a hard worker every step of the way. Honestly, she can play both ends of the floor. She guards the other team’s ... tougher forwards. And she’s a go-to player on the offensive end.”

LAWRENCE’S DEFENSE

Behind sophomore Aria Tate’s career-high 20 points Sunday, Lawrence rolled over Waltham.

The Lancers’ second-half defense though was the real key to victory.

“(In the first half), they were getting four or five shots every possession,” Lawrence coach Dan Blouin said about Waltham.

After allowing 24 points in the first half, the Lancers held Waltham to six points in the third and 10 in the fourth quarter.

DIVISION 1 POWERS

Pinkerton, Londonderry and defending champ Bedford are the three remaining undefeated New Hampshire teams in Division 1.

Pinkerton and Londonderry are both 6-0 in the division and Bedford is 5-0. Behind them are Manchester Memorial (5-1) and Bishop Guertin (6-2).

In last year’s title game, Bedford beat BG, which won the 2011-12 title game 46-43 over Londonderry.

Londonderry won 41-38 over BG on Friday. A BG 3-pointer at the buzzer made it a three-point game instead of a six-point win.

Londonderry doesn’t play Bedford until Feb. 19. Pinkerton plays Bedford two days later. That should be quite an interesting second-to-final week before the playoffs begin.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Amanda Williams poured in a career-high 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lift Central Catholic 69-57 over Lowell on Friday.

Williams also had 19 points and nine rebounds in Central’s previous win, a 51-45 victory over Billerica.

Williams, a North Andover resident, is a returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star. She netted 10.0 points per game and added 7.9 rebounds per game while helping Central win last year’s Division 1 state title.

FAB FIVE

1. Londonderry 7-0

2. Central Catholic 9-1

3. Pentucket 8-3

4. Pinkerton 6-2

5. Whittier 6-2

Honorable mention: Andover 8-3, North Reading 8-4

* Records do not include last night’s games