Ex-Ram turns in career high as Emerson beats Suffolk

 

Few things in sports provide an athlete with more satisfaction than beating their former team.

Norton, who transferred to Emerson from Suffolk University prior to this season, scored a career-high 23 points against her former squad on Saturday, leading the Lions to a 69-61 come-from-behind victory at Suffolk’s Regan Gym.

The sophomore guard said she had been anticipating the game since she arrived on Emerson’s campus, especially last week during practice, when her enthusiasm earned her the title ‘Coach Norton’ amongst teammates.

“She is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and she really deserved this,” said freshman teammate Olivia Connors. “She told us some information about some of the [Suffolk] players, which definitely helped us out in the game.”

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Norton had to first harness her surplus energy on Emerson’s bench as she fulfilled her role as the team’s sixth man.

Suffolk jumped out to a commanding 11-0 lead as the Lions struggled with costly turnovers and subpar shooting.

“I really wanted to get into the game and try to change the momentum around,” she said. “I knew I would be able to fire up my team because of all the energy I had from playing against my friends and teammates from last year.”

Upon entering the game, Norton’s liveliness was contagious.

She promptly sunk a three-pointer, which brought her teammates and head coach Bill Gould to their feet.

Norton has come off the bench in the majority of Emerson’s games, averaging 23 minutes per contest, playing a crucial role for the Lions.

“I just try to really focus on what different players in the game are doing to not make the same mistakes,” she said. “I use the mental part of the game to make the physical transition better.”

After a Suffolk timeout with 11 minutes left in the first half, a 10-0 run by the Rams extended their lead to 28-13.

But on cue, a Norton basket stopped the Lions’, whose experience in coming from behind this season kept them on an even-keel, enabling them to claw their way back eventually.

“Great Northeast Athletic Conference games are always close, so 10 points is more like two points,” Norton said. “Our coach always tells us that whenever we play someone, there’s going to be a run where they’re hitting shots left and right. But we’re going to have ours too.”

After senior Kathy Andrade battled her way to the rim, scored a basket, and made a free-throw, Norton hit another one of her four three-pointers of the night.

The suddenly-intense Lions closed out the first half on an 8-0 run to shrink the deficit to four.

“Even when we got down, it wasn’t about trying to score 12 points on the next possession,” Gould said. “It was just about ‘let’s get two, let’s get two’ and then just focus on what we’re trying to do.”

Gould said he tried to stress to his team at halftime that they were in much better shape than Suffolk’s 32-28 lead indicated.

The Rams started the second half with a full-court press, but a three-pointer by sophomore guard Olivia DiNucci and poor shooting by Suffolk sparked a 17-0 run for the Lions.

Connors said fatigue seemed to be an issue for Suffolk’s starting five, perhaps due to their up-tempo style of play in the first half.

“We definitely outworked them [in the second half],” Connors said. “We wanted it way more than them. They had gotten too comfortable.”

Suffolk only shot 28 percent in the second half, while the Lions went 16-for-18 from the free-throw line down the stretch to secure the lead and ice the game.

Emerson closed the gap in the GNAC standings by improving to 7-3 in conference play, while Suffolk fell to 8-2.

“It feels great. It feels awesome, especially playing as explosive as I did,” Norton said of the win. “But we still have two games left [before the GNAC tournament], so we just have to make sure we keep the momentum going into the next game.”

Norton said she still hangs out with her former Suffolk teammates, making the win that much more enjoyable.

“I liked Suffolk, but I guess Emerson’s just that much better.”