Sports 02-18-2015

Undisputed champions

Revere beats Beverly to win NEC basketball title

By Cary Shuman

The Revere High girls basketball team already owned a share of the Northeastern Conference North title when it took the court for a showdown against Beverly Friday night.

But head coach Diana DeCristoforo, assistant coach Kristin Ciappina and their 2015 team aren’t the type to settle for half a loaf. They wanted “undisputed” NEC champion in the all-time record books and this overachieving team with one senior player, Tiphani Harris, went out and earned it in one of the most exciting RHS sporting events in years.

Junior guard Ally Hinojosa swished a floater inside the lane with six seconds left to give Revere a 67-66 victory over Beverly, who was hoping to become co-champion with the Lady Patriots.

Beverly’s Natalie Mellinger had hit a dramatic three-pointer with 21 second left before Revere strategized for the winning basket. After the initial attempt missed connection, Revere had an inbounds play underneath its own basket with 11 seconds left.

Hinojosa wound up with the ball at the top of the key and proceeded unhesitatingly down the lane, the fate of the game in her hands. Hinojosa delivered coolly on the clutch, go-ahead hoop. Beverly tried to race down court for a buzzer-beater but it was well off the mark and Revere had sole possession of the crown.

“Ally has stepped up for us all year long,” said DeCristoforo. “What an athlete she is. She stepped up in the moment and hit a shot that we practice every day.”

Revere had to mount a tremendous comeback against a hot-shooting Beverly team seeking to make it a memorable Senior Night. The Panthers led by 13 points (43-30) early in the second half before Ally Hinojosa (13 points), Maritza Scott (17 points) Tiphani Harris (11 points), freshman Pamela Gonzalez (20 points), and Adanna Hector (4 points, 5 assists) ignited the Patriots’ offense.

Revere finally took its first lead of the game on a Harris three-point play with 6:40 left in the game. Gonzales and Scott were immense in the final quarter, with Scott’s late flurry giving Revere a 66-63 lead. Mellinger answered for Beverly with a three-pointer and a 66-65 advantage.

After DeCristoforo called for a timeout and Revere’s initial attempt went out of bounds, Hinojosa strode down the lane for the game-winning basket – and the outright title.

DeCristoforo was simply brilliant in changing looks on defense and finding the right combinations against a guard-oriented Beverly team. Sophomore Meghan Gotham and freshman Valentina Pepic provided huge minutes off the bench while controlling the boards with Harris in the frontcourt. Gonzales displayed tremendous poise as a freshman in the biggest game of her career.

“We had lost to Beverly earlier in the year by three points at home right before Christmas vacation,” said DeCristoforo. “We had something to prove and we wanted to go out and compete against a really good team. We knew that Beverly would be up for it because of the NEC title, but it was more about proving to ourselves that we could compete against them.”

A family tradition

Tiphani Harris joins her father in championship territory

By Cary Shuman

Now and forever when 6-foot-6-inch Richie Harris rekindles memories of his championship-producing basketball career at Chelsea High School, his daughter, Revere senior Tiphani Harris, can say, “Hey dad, I have a title, too.”

Richie Harris was a superb basketball center back in the 1980s for the Red Devils who won a Greater Boston League championship when the GBL was one of the best leagues in the state (and Revere was a member of the once legendary loop).

But Chelsea departed the GBL soon after Harris left but the tall, handsome one’s imprint on the program is noted proudly on a championship banner inside the CHS gymnasium. Richie Harris has no doubt spun a few tales of his greatness to Tiphani and we can affirm that the tales are true: Richie Harris was in a word, awesome.

Tiphani Harris worked hard to put herself and her team in the position they wanted to be in the Northeastern Conference final Friday night: a win meant an outright championship. The 5-foot-10-inch forward made a commitment to AAU basketball in the off season and she has improved to the point where she is one of the top players in the area.

This season Harris has given the Lady Patriots excellent leadership and big-time consistency as the lone senior on the roster. Harris had 11 points and helped Revere hold an edge on the boards in a thrilling 67-66 win over Beverly.

Harris’s stellar contribution came as no surprise to head coach Diane DeCristoforo.

“Tiphani has been our heart all year,” said DeCristoforo. “She gets after it every single game. She just plays hard and I’m really happy that our underclassmen, especially our freshmen, have her to learn from because she gets after it every single day.”

Tiphani Harris, who will be heading to Framingham State University in the fall, was pleased to bring her school a title.

“It feels amazing,” said Harris. “I’m speechless. I’m so proud of how my team played. I was the only senior but I knew we could all lead this team to a title. Even though we were down, we never gave up.”

Harris said she’s learned to control her emotions on the court, crediting coach Diana DeCristoforo for inspiring her to work hard and keep improving each day in practice.

“Coach ‘D’ has inspired me to keep pushing myself even when I’m not in the game,” said Harris. “She’s done a great job this year. This is exactly how I would want to wrap up my career. I wouldn’t want to end it any other way but with a championship with these girls.”

Harris and the NEC champion Lady Patriots will continue their campaign in the MIAA State Tournament next week. Revere will compete in the Division 1 North Sectionals.

Richie Harris said he’s more than happy to make room on the trophy shelf for his daughter’s achievements that will no doubt include NEC All-Star recognition.

“I feel real proud of her,” said Harris. “She’s accomplished a lot this year. She plays hard. She plays aggressive. She’s just doing well. I’ve seen her improvement this season. I’m very happy that her coach [Diana DeCristoforo] is here.  I’m glad that she came back for Tiphani’s senior year.”

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