The coaches in the Northeastern Conference have affirmed what everyone in this city has known for a long time: Gena Restiano is one of the best basketball players in Revere High School history.
Restiano, a four-year varsity player and co-captain of the current team, has received the conference’s Most Valuable Player award by a vote of the coaches.
The NEC’s top individual honor comes one year after Restiano sustained a serious knee injury that required surgery and months of rehabilitation. She has made a tremendous comeback this season to lead Revere to a berth in the State Tournament.
Opposing coaches say the 5-foot-3-inch Restiano is a gifted player who can unhinge a defense with her phenomenal ballhandling, crisp playmaking or accurate long range shooting.
“I’ve been watching her play for four years and she’s just an outstanding player,” said Salem coach John Fortunato. “As an opposing coach, you know you have your hands full trying to defend against Gena. I love everything about her. She’s a classy kid and a great competitor. It was great to see her back on the court and having the great year she had.”
Winthrop coach Ignacio Oyola said his defensive game plan always focused on trying to contain Restiano’s offensive skills.
“We try to take the ball out of her hands as much as possible because she’s such an offensive threat,” said Oyola. “She can do it all – she can handle the basketball, she shoots it well, sees the floor well and passes the ball well; even if you double-team her, she’ll find the open player. She’s just a really good basketball player all around.”
Restiano’s statistics underline her all-around skills, a blend of firepower and finesse that matches up well with two backcourt legends of Revere’s past, Kimberly Kelley and Diane Odoardi. She has a career scoring average of 13 points per game with more than 300 assists and 150 rebounds. She has swished 150 three-pointers in her career and won the NEC three-point shooting contest as a sophomore. During that season Restiano was the starting point guard for a Revere team that stormed to a 20-0 record in the regular season, the best in school history.
With at least two games remaining in her career, Restiano needs 33 points to join the 1,000-point club.
“If I do score my 1,000th point, the first person I’ll go to hug is Caitlyn Caramello,” said Restiano, noting the friendship with her long-time teammate. “Caitlyn and I have been playing basketball together since the third game. We’re best friends and we’re teammates.”
She credits her teammates for their hard work and dedication and says the individual honors wouldn’t have been possible without their talent, determination, and team spirit.
“It feels good to be MVP, but I really couldn’t have gotten it obviously without the help of my teammates,” said Restiano. “I do feel I’m definitely a leader when it comes to my team.”
She is a much-respected leader off the court as well. She is the president of the senior class, a member of the National Honor Society, a Power of Know leader, and a community service volunteer.
Revere coach Katelyn Leonard said she admires the perseverance and determination that Gena displayed after her season-ending injury last year.
“Going through what she went through last year – tearing her ACL and losing twelve games, she just battled to come back and I don’t even know how hard that is. I just respect the way she worked, the way she fought to come back and the way she played this year.”
Leonard said the MVP award is the perfect exclamation point to a brilliant four-year career.
“Gena has earned a lot of respect over the past four years,” said Leonard. “She played like an MVP all season long and the coaches recognized that. She deserved this award because she’s worked so hard for four years for this program.
Through all the successes in basketball and in academics, Restiano says her parents, Larry and Debbie, have been supportive every step of the journey.
“My parents are the most wonderful people I know,” said Restiano. “They’ve haven’t missed a game all the way back to third grade.”
Restiano isn’t hanging up the sneakers anytime soon. She will attend prestigious Babson College where she will continue her basketball career.
“Gena can be a force at Babson,” predicted Leonard. “I know her work ethic and she’ll take the summer and get herself ready for college basketball. She has a lot of strengths that she’ll bring to the Babson program.”