Ex-rivals join forces in college
There was a time, back in sixth grade, when Amy Pelletier would position herself on the low block and challenge Tori Faieta in the paint.
It was long before they became high school rivals in the Catholic Central League, with Pelletier starring at Bishop Fenwick while Faieta blossomed at St. Mary’s of Lynn.
It was well before Pelletier stopped growing; she’s now 5-foot-7 and a sharp shooter with a quick release, while Faieta, at 6-foot-2, evolved into a forward with a powerful post game.
And it was also well before they became teammates at Stonehill College and emerged into two key components of the Skyhawks’ offense.
Even playing for the same AAU team in high school, the Bay State Blizzard, was bittersweet, because they knew they would oppose each other during the high school season.
“Playing with each other was a tease, because I knew when it counted, I’d be up against her,” said Pelletier, a Beverly resident. “But it was always a fun rivalry.”
Now they are living their dream of playing together for the college in Easton, their complementary playing styles becoming a nightmarish combination for opposing teams to defend.
Pelletier is the Skyhawks’ second-leading scorer (15.8 points per game), while Faieta is third in scoring (averaging 13.6 ) and collecting a team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game. Together, the two juniors have led Stonehill to the second spot in the Northeast-10 Conference standings at 7-4 (10-5 overall) behind unbeaten Bentley.
“They play well together,” Stonehill coach Trisha Brown said. “One strength helps the other strength, and they’re a strong duo that’s helped our ability to score.”
Brown recalls see the two playing together in the Agganis All-Star Classic following their senior year in high school.
“I remember that I went with both of my assistant coaches to watch the game, and we were so excited during that game,” Brown said.
“They were both very strong players on very strong programs. Just to see differences in their game, and how well they would play together, with Amy’s strength on the perimeter and Tori inside, it was a coach’s dream.”
Faieta, who finished her career at St. Mary’s as the program’s leading career point-scorer (1,471) and rebounder (1,416), had an immediate impact when she arrived at Stonehill, and has steadily improved.
In 27 games as a freshman, with 18 starts, Faieta averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds. Last year, starting all 29 games, she averaged 12.2 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
In a 104-92 win against Adelphi on Jan. 8, Faieta scored a career-high 25 points on 10 of 15 shooting, including a perfect 3 for 3 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I’ve been getting in the gym a lot more, and there’s no real secret there,” Faieta said. “You have to keep putting in the work.”
Faieta’s true strength is scoring down low, where she displays a repertoire of post moves.
“I would say her strength, and her finesse around the hoop,” Pelletier said when asked what she likes most about her game. “She still makes shots that awe me every day at practice.”
Faieta has a hearing impairment — she was diagnosed with profound high-frequency hearing loss at age 4 — and relies on hand signals and lip-reading to pick up the calls on offense.
Playing man-to-man defense is a challenge, considering the adjustments occur at a faster rate, particularly when rotating on screens.
“Defense happens very quickly so it’s tough to get the hand signals down and react to it,” Faieta said. “I think it’s become a little bit more easier playing with the disability because I can learn from past experiences and how to advocate for myself. My teammates are really good at helping me and I really appreciate that.”
While Faieta can finish shots around the basket, she has always envied Pelletier’s speed and quick release on her jump shot.
“I love having Amy on my team, because I know if I give her the ball she’ll get in,” Faieta said. “She’s always been very good, even in middle school.”
Pelletier has crippled defenses with her 3-point shooting this season, torching the nets with a 50.4 percentage from beyond the arc.
A 1,219-point scorer at Fenwick, Pelletier started 26 of 27 games her freshman year at Stonehill while averaging 8.7 points per game. Last year, as a sophomore, playing all 29 games, she averaged 10.3 points.
“I’m thrilled that they’re coming back another year, and they’re both great leaders that will help us,” said Brown.
Reading QB heading to Maine
Drew Belcher , who is graduating from Reading Memorial High as the program’s winningest quarterback (29-6 record), gave a verbal commitment to the University of Maine on Tuesday.
Belcher, who announced the decision on his Twitter account, also received offers from Albany, Bryant, and Lafayette. He chose the Black Bears after visiting the Orono campus last weekend.
“I got to talk to the coaches and I love them all there, and it’s a very strong program in a strong conference,’’ the Colonial Athletic Association, said Belcher.
Maine, the defending CAA champion, lost to New Hampshire in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision FCS playoffs.
Last fall, Belcher threw for more than 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns as Reading advanced to the Division 2 North semifinals. In 2012, he was the Globe’s Division 2 Player of the Year after leading the Rockets to a Super Bowl championship and a perfect 13-0 record.
“I’m really happy for Drew,” Reading coach John Fiore said. “It’s a great school, with a great football program. It’s good to see Drew has really worked hard to have some opportunities.”