Mary Star High girls basketball is enjoying some kind of breakthrough season under first-year coach Victor Tuberosi, and two of the main reasons why just happen to be Angela Pisano and Kaitlyn Martinez, a pair of freshmen studs.
Pisano and Martinez have breathed new life into a program that struggled with a 2-15 season in 2012-2013, and the Stars have already doubled their win total of a year ago with a current record of 4-4, riding a three-game winning streak as they head into the Firebaugh Tournament on January 2.
The two of them, along with another outstanding freshman in guard Amanda Vitalich, have all been outstanding new additions to the program.
"I love playing on this team," Pisano says. "It's been a great experience so far and I'm looking forward to four years of hard work and success."
Both Pisano and Martinez got early starts to their basketball careers.
"I started playing basketball when I was 10 years old," Martinez said. "It was in sixth grade when I first learned how to play. It was a tough sport for me to learn, but with the help I'm getting from my uncle and going to basketball camps, I finally know how to play basketball."
Pisano, the team's starting shooting guard, began playing basketball at 8 years old at Bogdanovich Park in San Pedro, but she also got added help this year at Mary Star working under legendary three-sport athlete Sarah Gascon, who coached her during volleyball and taught her how to play setter. It parlayed into an All-Camino Real League second-team selection.
"Playing volleyball helps my vertical leap, speed and quickness," Pisano said. "It also helps with the ability to play together as a team."
The Stars have grown up quite well after their rough start, which is crucial for a team that starts the three freshmen, sophomore center Adriana Espinoza, and junior point guard Marina Vitalich, who is much more famous at Mary Star for her softball pitching prowess. Tuberosi has also got valuable contributions defensively from senior forward Brina Garcia, another volleyball import, and sophomore center Devan Avalos.
Martinez loves playing alongside Pisano.
"Playing with Angela so far has been really fun," Martinez says. "She is very focused and determined to win when it comes to games. I would call ourselves the dominant two!"
Pisano throws praise right back at her fellow freshman forward.
"It's great playing with Kaitlyn," Pisano says. "She's very active and does a good job down low. She always hustles and gives full effort, which helps with our success."
Pisano has scored at least 20 points in all four of Mary Star's victories against Mountain View Christian of Nevada, Environmental Charter of Lawndale, Calvary Chapel of Downey, and Animo Leadership of Inglewood. Pisano's best moment thus far has been her 23-point performance in the 39-38 win over Calvary Chapel on December 14. She seemingly scored at will that night.
"I was happy with the outcome (against Calvary Chapel), but I couldn't have done it without my teammates," Pisano says, showing her humility.
Martinez's most memorable game was the Stars' 51-34 victory over Animo Leadership, but she also recalled her favorite play thus far in the season against Environmental Charter, where she made a drive to the basket from the right corner and made a sweeping layup that looked like the vintage Kareem Abdul-Jabbar skyhook shot.
"My thought on that shot was, 'am I going to make this shot?'," recalls Martinez, who also was on the volleyball team this past season with Pisano. "I felt surprised when it actually went in the hoop because I thought I was going to miss it at first."
The resurgence of the Stars is refreshing, and may serve them well in an extremely difficult Camino Real League where the other four members all made long runs in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
St. Monica of Santa Monica, currently 8-6, won the CIF-SS Division IV-A championship by beating St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs, who is 8-2. The Mariners also beat Cantwell Sacred-Heart of Montebello (8-4), another Camino Real League team, in the semifinals. And if that wasn't enough to deal with those three, St. Joseph of Lakewood, currently 6-4, was a CIF-SS Division III-A runner-up last season as well.
All four of them will provide a daunting task for a young Stars team, but Pisano and Martinez refuse to be intimidated.
"My goal for this team is to win at least half of our (eight) league games," Pisano said. "My personal goal is to contribute as much as I can to the team and help my teammates improve as the season progresses."
Martinez's main goal both as a team and individually is pretty self-explanatory: "Win league."