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 stateâ€™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. Michaelâ€™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 itâ€™s only a matter of time before the letters start arriving from colleges. Yes, Genaâ€™s Kim Kelley good, for those who remember Revereâ€™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.
â€œObviously weâ€™re happy with the record we have, but thereâ€™s always room for improvement,â€ said DeCristoforo. â€œWe take it one game at a time. Weâ€™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.â€
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, â€œletâ€™s see if we can rise up and topple this Revere powerhouse, the best team in our conference.â€
â€œTeams are gunning for us now and itâ€™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,â€ 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 teamâ€™s dedication to improving each day at practice has translated into â€œsuccess and winsâ€ 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 â€œtwo of the best sophomoresâ€ in the state.
â€œCaitlyn is playing excellent basketball,â€ said DeCristoforo. â€œSheâ€™s stronger and quicker this season and sheâ€™s taking the ball to the basket harder than she did last year. Defensively, she creates turnovers.â€
Senior Marisa Parent, who shares the point guard duties with Restiano, has been very effective in that role. â€œWe feel confident with either player running the point and against Winthrop, Morgan moved to the point and did really well,â€ 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.
â€œAshley and Melissa are both excellent captains and lead by example,â€ said DeCristoforo. â€œThey turned their attention to rebounding and defense at the beginning of the year and now weâ€™re really pushing them to be more involved offensively.â€
The reserves have also stepped up when called upon by the coaches.
â€œSophomore Amy Rotger has been extremely important coming off the bench for our team,â€ said DeCristoforo. â€œHer 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.â€
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.
â€œThe more the community is involved the better,â€ said DeCristoforo, who played in three State Tournaments as a 1,000-point scorer at RHS. â€œI know the girls love seeing kids at our games. It gets them pumped up seeing kids, teachers, and the community at our games.â€
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 â€“ attendance, historic significance, media attention â€“ is magnified.
â€œWe realize that we canâ€™t just be happy to be in the tournament this year,â€ said DeCristoforo. â€œWe have a lot more work to do than just getting in to the tournament. We learned a lot from last yearâ€™s 16-4 record and from our [first-round] loss to Lowell. Weâ€™ll continue to use that as motivation.â€