Niagara Gazette — It's hard enough for any high school program to remain consistent with most students playing only a few years before graduating. It's even harder for a school the size of Niagara Catholic.
It's almost unfair to throw injuries into the mix.
That's what the 2013-13 NC girls basketball program faces following the loss of last year's leading scorer (Danielle Devole) to graduation and three other expected returning starters (Marissa Campbell, Marissa Ruffalo and Jessica Chandler) to season-ending knee injuries.
The new-look Patriots have shown well so far, boasting a 3-0 record and a championship in the Park Tournament despite the roster turnover. Head coach Larry Puzan said his players have bought into playing a defense-first style that helps make up for their lack of elite offensive talent.
"The kids are buying into that if we play good 'D,' we can be competitive in any game," he said. "We've improved with every game, but we're very young as far as offensive talent. Our points have to come in transition."
The Patriots held host Park scoreless in the first quarter of the tournament's finale before letting up a bit in the second. Puzan spoke with the girls at halftime, and they responded by only allowing 9 points in the second half.
Sophomore guard Marina Campbell, Marissa's twin, was named tournament MVP, while Melissa Whisker was named to the all-tournament team.
Joining the duo in the starting lineup are senior guard Christina Schulte and freshman forward Precious Adamson. Forwards Sam Martineau and Catja Brusino have split starts at the other forward spot.
Campbell, Schulte and bench guard Jerastaysia Briggs are the only returning players, and Schulte is the only player on the roster whose spent more than a year in the NC program. Briggs, a junior, transferred in last season, while Brusino, a sophomore, is in her first season with the school since transferring from Niagara-Wheatfield. Martineau is a senior, but she took the past two seasons off after playing as a freshman.