Pepic earns two All-Scholastic honors
By Cary Shuman
Valentina Pepic took her game to new heights this season and the Boston sports media took notice.
Pepic, the 6-foot-2-inch center for the Revere High girls basketball team, was selected to the Boston Globe and Boston Herald All-Scholastic Teams in recognition of her superb junior season in which she averaged 18 points and nine rebounds. She has 884 career points.
Also named the Northeastern Conference MVP for the second year in a row, Pepic helped lead the Lady Patriots to a 19-3 record that included 18 consecutive wins and a No. 1 ranking in all statewide polls during the season.
Revere coach Lianne O’Hara said that Pepic was fully deserving of All-Scholastic recognition, an honor that is symbolic of being one of the top players in the state. Pepic was the only player from three well-established area leagues (Greater Boston, NEC, and Cape Ann) to receive the Globe award.
“I’m lucky to have her – that’s how I feel,” said O’Hara. “Val is a hard worker and totally deserves any accolades she gets. You have to be an elite basketball player to get these awards and Val is one and she has the right mindset.”
Opposing teams had difficulty defending Pepic, who can hit the outside shot consistently but also thrives close to the basket. O’Hara’s strategic deployment of her players and having one of the region’s best three-point shooters in junior guard Tatiana Iacoviello helped open up the court for Pepic.
“I think Val’s inside game has really improved,” said O’Hara. “She’s working hard on her post moves, but Val can also shoot the ball, so she’s a tough player to defend. If you don’t close her out, she’s going to shoot from the outside. If you do, she’s going to go by you and close you out.”
O’Hara was well supported by a starry cast that featured NEC All-Stars Pamela Gonzalez, Meaghan Gotham, and Tatiana Iacoviello, senior captain and starting forward Samantha Woodman, and impressive guards Emily DiGiulio, a sophomore, and Erika Cheever, a freshman.
“Val is supported by a lot of very talented athletes,” said O’Hara. “And that definitely helps take a lot of the pressure off of her.”
Pepic said being an All-Scholastic wasn’t a personal goal when the season started last December. “I really didn’t know much about All-Scholastic. But it’s definitely an honor and I’m really thankful but I feel like there’s still so much more hard work to do.”
“She’s very modest,” said O’Hara.
Pepic credited her teammates for her success while adding that she appreciated their coaches’ hard work and their striving to help each player reach her potential.
“My teammates all played such a big role on the team. I think Tatiana had half the assists on my baskets. She works really well with me because we’ve been playing basketball since we were younger so our chemistry is really good. Everyone knows what a really good player Pamela is and she definitely knows what she’s doing. I trained with Meaghan almost every day to get better at basketball. I’ve played basketball with Emily for a long time and we’re so close.”
Pepic said ninth grader Emily Cheever provided one of the best moments of the season when she hit two free throws in the final seconds to help Revere beat Classical and remain undefeated. “I’ll never forget that Classical game when she stayed so calm and so humble and I give her so much credit, especially as a freshman.”
Pepic said the win over Division 3 powerhouse St. Mary’s of Lynn in the season opener was also a signature triumph for the team in terms of building confidence and showing resiliency.
Pepic attended the Beachmont School and began her basketball career at the age of 10.
“Peter DiGiulio [Emily’s father] started my basketball career,” said Pepic. “I had a neighbor that was playing basketball and then from there Peter DiGiulio wanted me to play on his travel team. He was always there to help me become a good player.”
In middle school, Pepic played on the same team that would include many of her future RHS teammates. “We went undefeated in my eighth grade year,” recalled Pepic.
O’Hara, a schoolteacher in Revere, had known about Pepic prior to her arrival at the high school. “I first met Valentina at the Garfield School science fair, but I had heard about her basketball talent,” said O’Hara. “I was at a summer basketball league and recall telling [Danvers coach] Pat Veilleux that there were going to be two six-footers [Pepic and Gotham] at Revere and [former Revere coach] Diana DeCristoforo is back, so you better watch out.”
O’Hara was right in her prognostication as the Pepic-Gotham combination gave Revere two post players the caliber of former RHS and Bentley 6-foot center Patrice Misiano. The pair also excelled for the RHS volleyball team. Gotham will attend Post University on a basketball scholarship.
Pepic has begun her spring season for the MCW Stars, an AAU program sponsored by Chicago Bulls guard Michael Carter-Williams and coordinated by Williams’s mother, former Ipswich coach Mandy Zegarowski.
Prior to the MCW Stars, she played for an AAU team coached by Freddie Hector, father of former RHS guard Adanna Hector. “Mr. Hector taught me a lot about basketball,” said Pepic.
The daughter of Velimir and Milena Pepic, who are originally from Bosnia, Valentina was born in Germany and came to the United States with her family when she was one month old. Her father was an excellent soccer player.
“They have been supporting me ever since I was younger, always coming to my games, especially my dad, who really knows the type of player I am and the potential I have. He always pushed me every day.”
She is proud of her brother, Mladen (who also stands 6-foot-2), a 2013 RHS graduate who is set to receive a Master’s degree in Engineering from WPI and begin a job at Raytheon.
College basketball is in Pepic’s future plans. An honor roll student, she has visited Assumption and Merrimack and received correspondence from Division 1 schools Hofstra, Holy Cross, and Boston University.
During an interview Monday, Pepic opted not to mention the likelihood of her eclipsing the 1,000-point milestone next season, instead focusing on the team’s goal which she said was to win a Division 1 state championship.
RhS sports Roundup
RHS softball team defeats Peabody, 5-4, in extra innings
The Revere High softball team opened its season in dramatic fashion with a walk-off, 5-4 victory over Peabody in extra innings Monday afternoon at the Lady Patriots’ beautiful new field at St. Mary’s Park.
Revere twice had to overcome deficits to send the game into extra innings. After spotting Peabody a 2-0 lead in the second inning, the Lady Patriots scored three runs in the fourth frame to grab a 3-2 advantage. The RBI were delivered by Jordan Sullivan with a double, Andrea Lauria with a base hit, and Samantha Woodman on a well-executed bunt.
When the visiting Lady Tanners responded with two markers in the fifth to retake the lead, Victoria Correia crushed a solo homer over the fence in the bottom of the frame to knot matters at 4-4.
The contest remained deadlocked at that score for the next two innings to send matters into extras. Peabody appeared poised to forge ahead when the Lady Tanners placed runners at second and third with none out in the top of the eighth, but Lady Patriot pitcher Olivia McManus got out of the inning unscathed thanks primarily to center fielder Vanessa Puopolo, who snared a Peabody line drive with a superb catch and then threw a strike to third base to double-up the Lady Tanner baserunner.
McManus then got the next Peabody hitter to ground out to end the threat, setting stage for the Revere winning rally in the bottom of the eighth. Victoria Puopolo, appearing as pinch-hitter for Lauria, smacked a line-drive base hit to lead off the inning. After Vanessa Puopolo successfully sacrifice-bunted Lauria (who had re-entered the game as a runner for Victoria P.) to second, Peabody intentionally walked Correia.
That brought up Liz Lake, who initially tried to move both runners along with a bunt. However, after two unsuccessful attempts (resulting in two strikes), Liz blasted the ball to the gap in right center to bring Lauria home with the winning run.
“It was a great way to inaugurate our new field,” said RHS head coach Joe Ciccarello. “Everybody on the team contributed in some way to the win.”
The triumph over Northeastern Conference rival Peabody was especially satisfying because Revere had dropped both contests last year to the same Lady Tanner pitcher last year by identical scores of 7-5.
Lady Patriot sophomore pitcher McManus went all the way for Revere, allowing just two earned runs over the eight innings, to pick up the win.
Revere had opened its season two days earlier on a wet and cold Saturday at New Bedford in a non-league tilt, dropping a 9-4 decision, in which Lake provided the main in highlight by belting a two-run homer over the fence.
However, that contest is a so-called exclusionary game for Revere, which means that it will not count toward the Lady Patriots’ final record for purposes of determining state tournament eligibility.
Ciccarello and his crew will be back in action today (Wednesday) at Malden, one of the four schools from the former Greater Boston League that have transferred into the Northeastern Conference. They will entertain New Bedford Saturday (that contest will count toward Revere’s final record) at 11:00; host Somerville on the holiday Monday at 10:00; and travel to Saugus next Wednesday morning.
RHS baseball team drops season-opener
After a pair of washouts last week delayed the start of the season for the Revere High baseball team, the Patriots opened their 2017 campaign Monday afternoon, coming up on the short end of a 10-2 decision at Woburn in a non-league contest.
Revere had grabbed a 2-0 lead early in the encounter on the strength of RBI base hits by James O’Donnell and David Gulliama, but a host of errors by the Patriots — all on ground balls — allowed Woburn eventually to pull away for the win.
RHS starting pitcher, sophomore Matt Cravotta, began the contest in impressive fashion, needing just 15 pitches to retire Woburn scorelessly through the first two frames, before the poor support behind him proved his undoing.
“Our fielding certainly was disappointing,” noted RHS head coach Ron Jordan, whose squad had managed only a handful of practices outdoors thanks to the cold and wet spring pre-season that forced the Pats to work out almost exclusively in the RHS field house. “Now that we’re outside and practicing and playing on real-field conditions, we’ll be able to tighten-up our defense.”
Jordan and his crew are set to open their Northeastern Conference schedule today (Wednesday), hosting league newcomer Malden, which is joining the NEC along with the other schools, Everett, Medford, and Somerville, from the former Greater Boston League.
They will play at non-league foe Bedford tomorrow, trek to Somerville Monday morning, and entertain Saugus next Wednesday morning.
RHS girls lacrosse team opens season
After a postponement of its season-opener with Wakefield last week, the Revere High girls lacrosse team swung into action Saturday against Peabody on the turf field at Harry Della Russo Stadium.
Despite the final outcome of an 18-4 loss to the Lady Tanners, RHS head coach
Karen Atkinson saw many positive signs from her charges.
“There were many bright spots in the game, with beautiful connections on the field,” said Atkinson. “Our team had some nice transitions and nice looks offensively. As a defensive unit, we fell apart on isolation plays which allowed Peabody to score again and again. But we were stronger on the draw than we have been in the past, though we still need to do a better job of gaining possession right off the bat.”
Atkinson and her crew took on Swampscott this past Monday and are set to host Saugus today (Wednesday). They travel to Wilmington Saturday and will entertain Winthrop Tuesday.