An aggressive, in-your-face, full court pressure defensive attack.
So far, it has produced a 13-5 record, a second Firebaugh Tournament championship, and a surprise No.4 ranking in the most recent CIF-Southern Section Division 5A poll. That in itself is a testament to the selfless credo that has been instilled in them by fourth-year coach Victor Tuberosi.
The two main ringleaders of that pursuit & team chemistry just happens to be the two-time All-Santa Fe League starting backcourt of senior Angela Pisano and junior guard Hanalei Emnace.
The way they work defensively, both individually and collectively, it almost seems like they are twin sisters.
“Being able to trust (Angela) is something truly awesome,” said Emnace, who produced 10 steals in Mary Star’s 43-24 victory at St. Pius X/St. Matthias Academy of Downey last Thursday. “Knowing I have someone to pass to on offense or will help fill the trap on defense is great.”
Pisano, who leads the Stars in scoring and is well known for her funky one-handed floating jumper, is not shy in saying what makes her partnership with Emnace work.
“The fact that I know we have each other’s back, especially playing defense alongside her,” Pisano says of Emnace. “Nothing on the court intimidates her. She brings tons of energy to the team and it helps us feed off of it.”
Between the two of them, Pisano (3.1 steals a game) and Emnace (4.3 steals a game) average just less than half of the Stars’ average of 17 steals per contest as they prepare for their two toughest tests of the Santa Fe League schedule this week. It all starts with tonight's showdown with Bell-Jeff of Burbank, 7 pm at Mary Star High. The Guards (13-3) just happen to be the top-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 5A.
A challenge Pisano, Emnace and the rest of the Stars will take head on.
“We do have tough opponents this week,” said Pisano, who along with the rest of the Stars also travel to CIF-SS Division 3AA seventh-ranked La Salle of Pasadena on Thursday. “But if we execute our style of play and practice hard I think we’ll be okay.”
Whenever the guards of opposing teams do get by the dangerous duo… there are others who step up to make plays on defense such as senior forward Amanda Vitalich, senior center Kaitlyn Martinez, junior forward Melanie Meza and junior guard Jillian Duran. Sophomore forward/center Lorraine Medina has also been crucial to the Stars’ success thus far.
“It’s nice to know that our hard work is paying off defensively even if Angela or I don’t get a steal,” Emnace said. “We know others on our team will because of the teamwork mentality we all have.”
Pisano has been an all-league performer for all three years in both volleyball and basketball and has that one memorable performance she’ll likely be remembered for a long time in basketball, when she scored 42 points in a 48-42 win over Downey Calvary Chapel during her sophomore season. In that same season in Santa Fe League play, Pisano posted a pair of double-doubles in points and steals.
Emnace on the other hand only has a scoring career-high of 16 points from last season, but her overall speed from digging out tough hits in volleyball, while also competing in both swimming and track at Mary Star, sets her apart from a lot of teams who are unable to match her enthusiastic intensity on the court.
Both are not only excellent on-ball defenders, Pisano and Emnace are also good in playing the passing lanes, which is tantamount for any team that loves to play hard-nosed defense.
“I like figuring out and anticipating what the offense likes to do,” Emnace said. “That helps me get steals when we need them the most.”
Pisano makes no bones about her mentality on defense.
“Just keep the person I’m guarding in front of me and try not to foul out,” she says.