LYNWOOD - When Mary Star High girls basketball senior guard Angela Pisano wowed the crowd, and even shocked her teammates with a slick crossover dribble that completely fooled Hollywood senior guard Mary Davtyan midway through the third quarter... Pisano then missed the easy baseline jump shot that would have added to the excitement.
Pisano said with a laugh: "You can't win them all."
Apparently, that's all the resurgent Stars did throughout the entire Marco Anthony Firebaugh Tournament.
Demolishing the competition by an average of 33.5 points, Mary Star's lowest margin of victory in the tournament at Firebaugh High School also brought upon their most dominant defensive effort yet, as the Stars rolled to a 39-15 victory over Hollywood to repeat as Firebaugh Tournament championship, the only school in the tournament's four-year history to accomplish that feat.
Mary Star (11-4 overall) has been in the tournament all four years, and have finished no higher than fourth in the first two years.
"It's nice to see how everyone has improved and how we've learned to mend as a team," Mary Star junior point guard Hanalei Emnace, in many ways the heart of the team, said of the victory. "We've really worked hard and it's awesome to see that all our work has paid off."
Establishing themselves early, Mary Star would bolt to a 14-0 run to begin the game, and lead 14-2 at the end of the first quarter, forcing numerous turnovers from the Sheiks (5-2). Emnace, Pisano and senior forward Amanda Vitalich were the combined queens of steal, combining for 16 of the Stars' 23 steals on the day.
"It was very important that we got to a quick lead and kept our momentum up," said Pisano, who scored a game-high 24 points, outscoring the entire Hollywood team by nine on her own. "It helped us gain confidence and set a pace for the rest of the game."
Hollywood simply couldn't keep up with Mary Star's thoroughbreds on the full court press employed by coach Victor Tuberosi. Whenever they tried to pass around Emnace and/or Pisano, Vitalich would pick off any deep pass thrown at her, or the long arms of senior center Kaitlyn Martinez would be a thorn in Hollywood's side whenever they tried to score down low.
"I think that we've learned how to work together," said Emnace, who scored only four points, but contributed mightily with five assists, five rebounds and six steals. "We've just learned how to trust one another in our defense which helps us to get the steals we do."
While Emnace and Vitalich paced the defense, Pisano took control of the offense, scoring 12 of her game-high 24 points in the first quarter, and 18 overall points in the first half, in which the Stars led 24-6 at halftime.
Even though the Stars were sloppy in the second half and turned the ball over 26 times, which in many cases would end in a loss more often than not, Mary Star's own defensive prowess would be the deciding factor as they forced an incredible 41 Hollywood miscues. Even if Mary Star didn't get steals, their pressure defense would lead to several overthrown passes, an over-and-back violation, an inbounds violation, and three traveling violations.
Vitalich, although scoring her only basket on a layup off a great feed from Emnace in the second quarter, would get her job done doing the dirty work, leading the Stars with seven steals and six rebounds on the day. Pisano had three rebounds and three steals to compliment her scoring output. Martinez, although scoreless, blocked two shots.
Pisano and Emnace both shared the Firebaugh Tournament Most Valuable Player award, but Tuberosi made sure all the girls were accounted for and shared all the credit collectively during a decisive tournament title run that also included lopsided victories over Locke, New Designs Watts and tournament host Firebaugh.
"Basketball is a team sport so I'm glad coach Vic implied that," Pisano said. "Hanalei and I work well together and I'm excited to see what the future holds for us."
Mary Star is now on a six-game winning streak, last losing to La Serna in the Glenn/Norwalk Tournament on December 9, but will next put it to the test against Cerritos Valley Christian on Tuesday, 6 pm at Mary Star High.
Emnace likes the Stars' chances in challenging for the Santa Fe League championship.
"I'm excited for league and just to see how far we've come as a team," Emnace says. "I can't wait for the challenge."