WPIAL Alum Q&A – Maria Palarino

Monday, December 26, 2016 | 8:17 PM

Winning a WPIAL Championship cements both the team and its players’ place in history. Led by Maria Palarino, the Penn-Trafford girls basketball team claimed gold in dramatic fashion in 2014. Palarino, who now is a stalwart for St. Francis Brooklyn, is this week’s feature for the WPIAL Alum Q&A.

In addition to winning a title with the Warriors, Palarino produced an incredible career at Penn-Trafford. As a junior in 2013-14, she averaged just shy of 18 points per game, and nearly eight rebounds per contest, too. She helped her squad compile a 13-1 mark in section play, giving PT the No. 7 seed in the Quad-A postseason. From there, the Warriors mounted an improbable run, defeating Plum, Mount Lebanon and Fox Chapel to reach the title game against Hempfield.

In the title game against the Spartans, Penn-Trafford trailed by as many as 15, but the Warriors mounted a furious comeback, outscoring Hempfield 26-5 in the final frame. Palarino notched a double-double, leading the Warriors with 21 points and 11 boards. As a result, Penn-Trafford captured the first title in program history.

Palarino’s statistics were equally as impressive during her senior campaign, netting more than 17 points per game, but the Warriors could not produce the same playoff magic. PT went unblemished in section action, at 12-0, and earned the top spot, but the Warriors were bounced in the quarterfinals by Penn Hills. Nonetheless, Palarino concluded her terrific high-school career with 1,287 points, shooting just shy of 50 percent from the floor.

From there, she signed with the Terriers, and became one of the team’s top performers as a freshman. She was second on St. Francis in scoring, at 8.6 points per game, and collected 4.1 rebounds per contest, good for third on the squad. Additionally, she led the Terriers in field-goal percentage at just more than 50 percent. As a result, Palarino was named to the Northeast Conference (NEC) All-Rookie First Team. Despite Palarino’s success, though, her team struggled, with a mark of 7-22.

This campaign, Palarino has increased her production across the board. Her scoring (10.5), rebounding (6.8) and field-goal percentage (56.3) all represent significant increases from last season. To that point, she’s already achieved a 20-point game, as well as an 18-rebound outing. However, St. Francis Brooklyn has still struggled collectively, as the team has prevailed just twice in its first 11 tilts, with section play to commence later this week.

Maria took time from her schedule to answer questions about her freshman success, her fondest memory of the Warriors championship run, and which controversial athlete would be her dream date.

Q: You compiled impressive numbers and accolades as a freshman. What was key to making an early impact at St. Francis?

A: Coming into my freshman year at St. Francis, I knew that our team had big shoes to fill. They had graduated a lot of seniors, which left a lot of minutes to fill. I wanted to make an impact my freshman year in whatever way the team needed me to. I think that the key to this was adjusting to our style of play and learning from every practice and game.

Q: What is your greatest strength as a player?

A: Something my former AAU coach, John Miller, always said was that you may not always be the best player in the gym, but you can always be the hardest worker. As a player, I try to work as hard as I can and be as versatile as I can to help my team be successful.

Q: Your rebounding has increased drastically as a sophomore, including an 18-rebound game. Is this improvement mostly due to physical maturation?

A: I was in the weight room a lot during the off season, trying to become stronger. I think one of the biggest things that I took away from my freshman season was that rebounding is not as easy as it was in high school. These girls are bigger, faster, and stronger. I have been trying to focus a lot on grabbing as many boards as I can this year. More rebounds gives our team more opportunities to score.

Q: Did you set any individual goals prior to this season?

A: I don’t worry about individual goals as much as I worry about team goals. As a team, we want to get better every day. That means during each practice and every game. We are hoping to be more successful this year in conference play.

Q: The Terriers had a losing record last year, and are off to a slow start this season, too. What do you think will be the biggest key to a turnaround?

A: I think that we played a lot of really good competition during our nonconference schedule. We are hoping to take what we learned from each game and use it to be as successful as we can when conference play comes around. I think that with the team we have, we have potential to be very good.

Q: What led to your decision to attend St. Francis?

A: I love St. Francis because my campus is basically New York City, which is pretty cool. When I first visited the school, everyone was so nice and welcoming and I could see myself being a good fit for the basketball team.

Q: What is your major and preferred future profession?

A: I am majoring in Information Technology with a concentration in marketing. Right now, I think that I want to find a profession in the marketing or advertising field.

Q: What is the most challenging part of college classwork?

A: The most challenging part of college classwork is managing your time and making effective use of your time.

Q: You won a WPIAL Championship at Penn-Trafford. What stands out most to you about that experience?

A: Every time I think about the WPIAL championship, I think about the great group of girls I was able to share the experience with. It was not only the farthest any Penn-Trafford girls’ basketball team had gone in playoffs, but also the first championship. Every time I go back to my high school gym and see that banner hanging up, it brings back a lot of great memories from that season. Our entire community was so supportive. Overall, it was a pretty awesome experience and something that I’ll never forget.

Q: Who was the best WPIAL opponent you faced?

A: The best WPIAL individual player that I faced in my four years at Penn-Trafford has to be Shatori Walker-Kimbrough from Hopewell, and now the University of Maryland. I’m not sure if I could narrow down a team, but Blackhawk always gave us a good game. Playing Norwin and Hempfield was always fun because there was that sense of rivalry and we would have pretty big crowds.

Q: Do you still follow Penn-Trafford athletics or keep in touch with anyone at the basketball program?

A: I check @PTWarriors on Twitter pretty often for score updates or articles for any sports. I talk to my former volleyball and basketball teammates regularly – some almost every day. I speak with my old coaches a lot, too. I was lucky to be surrounded by such great people throughout high school, and I made a lot of lifelong friends.

Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals or traditions?

A: I have a few certain things that I do, but nothing crazy.

Q: What is your favorite TV show?

A: One Tree Hill and The Office

Q: Who is your dream date?

A: Grayson Allen

Q: If you became a millionaire overnight, what is the first thing you’d purchase?

A: I’d definitely go on a huge shopping spree, but the first thing on my list would have to be a Dalmatian puppy!

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