Penn-Trafford grad Maria Palarino rises to challenge at St. Francis
When Maria Palarino was playing basketball at Penn-Trafford, she was the proverbial “do-whatever-the-team-needs-me-to-do” player. Often, that meant playing different positions.
That penchant for playing all over the court has served her well at St. Francis Brooklyn, where she again has been asked to fill varying roles. Her versatility has been particularly important this season, as first-year coach Linda Cimino moved her into the post.
The 5-foot-10 Palarino often is giving up 2 to 3 inches to opposing forwards and centers. To get her accustomed to facing bigger foes, she worked with the Terriers coaching staff to perfect post moves.
Palarino said she also tries to use her speed to offset her height disadvantage.
“I was a little nervous at first because before, if I was in the post, it was against guards,” the senior said. “Now it’s forward on forward, and I am a little undersized.
“I think I picked up on it pretty fast, but there are still little things I am picking up on and learning.”
Cimino said the reason for Palarino’s switch was twofold: Her quickness enables her to beat bigger defenders up the floor in the Terriers’ pace-pushing scheme, and, more importantly, Palarino’s blue-collar Pittsburgh grit was tailor-made to do battle in the paint.
“She’s the toughest player we have in uniform,” Cimino said. “She’s like a pitbull out there. She, obviously, is undersized, but she is very physical and uses her body well on the court.”
For all of her bouncing around the lineup, Palarino has kept her numbers consistent. Through 20 games this season, she is averaging 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. In the previous three seasons, she averaged 8.6, 10.3 and 9.3 points and 4.1, 6.3 and 4.9 rebounds.
Palarino said she was hoping to have better numbers, but Cimino said she is happy with her contributions, particularly rebounding and passing. Her dependability also has been a boon to the Terriers: She has appeared in every game and started all but five in her three-plus seasons.
Against Mount St. Mary’s on Jan. 28, Palarino’s steady play was rewarded when she eclipsed 1,000 career points, becoming the 17th player in program history to do so.
“It was kind of a goal always in the back of my head,” she said, “but it isn’t as important to me as winning a championship.”
Palarino and the Terriers should get a chance to vie for a Northeast Conference title. Entering Saturday’s games, St. Francis Brooklyn was tied for third in the conference with St. Francis (Pa.) at 5-3, three games behind leader Robert Morris (8-0).
Sacred Heart (6-2) is one game ahead of the Terriers and Red Flash. St. Francis Brooklyn plays at Sacred Heart on Saturday in a game that will be important for NEC Tournament seeding.
This will be Palarino’s last chance to win an NEC title. The Terriers won the NEC Tournament the season before her arrival, and she is hoping to give them another shot before she is done.
Cimino would like nothing more than to see Palarino rewarded with a championship.
“She’s as valuable as a player gets,” Cimino said. “You don’t want to go into a game without her. She’s a kid every coach wants to coach. I wish I had her all four years.
“It’s hard to have a coach come in with a brand-new system, but she has handled it with ease. She is doing whatever the team needs her to do.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at
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