By Cary Shuman
Revere High girls basketball followers had reason to expect a very successful season in 2011. The Lady Patriots were16-4 a year ago and had a looming 1,000-point scorer in Morgan Jenkins and one of the state’s best sophomores in Gena Restiano returning to the fold.
Jenkins has eclipsed the grand point milestone and somehow exceeded the highest of expectations. The St. Michael’s College-bound scholarship player is averaging 17 points and 20 rebounds a game and has been in a word, awesome.
Restiano has taken her game up a notch and it’s only a matter of time before the letters start arriving from colleges. Yes, Gena’s Kim Kelley good, for those who remember Revere’s girls basketball hey day in the 1980s and Kelley, who went on to play at Tufts and is now coaching at Reading High School.
But perfection? An undefeated 15-0 record and one of the top-rankings in Massachusetts? The potential No. 1 seed in the State Tournament?
Revere girls basketball coach Diane DeCristoforo, who has brought the glory days and large crowds back to Merullo Fieldhouse, said this dream season is still a work in progress.
“Obviously we’re happy with the record we have, but there’s always room for improvement,” said DeCristoforo. “We take it one game at a time. We’ve already started looking at competitive high school and college games. For us to see different levels of play really drives us and keeps us hungry.”
DeCristoforo said the coaching staff and players have had to adjust their pre-game perspective. Where once Revere may have been a welcomed sight on the schedule, now opposing teams are conjecturing, “let’s see if we can rise up and topple this Revere powerhouse, the best team in our conference.”
“Teams are gunning for us now and it’s a good chance for us to be prepared for the tournament when every team is going after every team in a single-elimination format,” said DeCristoforo.
While having marquee players in Jenkins and Restiano set the foundation, DeCristoforo says that the hard work in the off-season, the camaraderie, and the team’s dedication to improving each day at practice has translated into “success and wins” on the court.
There have been other stars emerging for the Lady Patriots. Caitlyn Caramello has improved her all-around game to the point where DeCristoforo now says she has “two of the best sophomores” in the state.
“Caitlyn is playing excellent basketball,” said DeCristoforo. “She’s stronger and quicker this season and she’s taking the ball to the basket harder than she did last year. Defensively, she creates turnovers.”
Senior Marisa Parent, who shares the point guard duties with Restiano, has been very effective in that role. “We feel confident with either player running the point and against Winthrop, Morgan moved to the point and did really well,” sad DeCristoforo.
Ashley DiFraia, a 6-foot senior, has given the Lady Patriots a steady inside presence and an athleticism that cannot be denied. Melissa Adreani, another talented senior, has also made a major contribution to the team.
“Ashley and Melissa are both excellent captains and lead by example,” said DeCristoforo. “They turned their attention to rebounding and defense at the beginning of the year and now we’re really pushing them to be more involved offensively.”
The reserves have also stepped up when called upon by the coaches.
“Sophomore Amy Rotger has been extremely important coming off the bench for our team,” said DeCristoforo. “Her added offensive punch will continue to be crucial as the season winds down. Seniors Kat Price and junior Michaela Maguire are also important role players.”
DeCristoforo can sense the school community and the city getting behind the team, which should mean a tremendous home audience when Revere hosts its first game in the State Tournament.
“The more the community is involved the better,” said DeCristoforo, who played in three State Tournaments as a 1,000-point scorer at RHS. “I know the girls love seeing kids at our games. It gets them pumped up seeing kids, teachers, and the community at our games.”
The excitement will build with each victory, but the head coach knows the team must prove its mettle in the State Tournament this year when everything – attendance, historic significance, media attention – is magnified.
“We realize that we can’t just be happy to be in the tournament this year,” said DeCristoforo. “We have a lot more work to do than just getting in to the tournament. We learned a lot from last year’s 16-4 record and from our [first-round] loss to Lowell. We’ll continue to use that as motivation.”