Moments after Northport fell to Longwood in last year’s Suffolk Class AA championship, coach Rich Castellano said a handful of his players approached him on the sidelines.
That group included Danielle Pavinelli. She and her teammates had a plan for what happened next.
“I remember, right after that game, [Pavinelli] was one of the ones that said to me, ‘We’re not losing again,’” Castellano said.
Pavinelli was as good as her word this season.
The fifth-year varsity player led the Tigers back to the Class AA final, and with a 20-point, 10-rebound performance in the rematch against Longwood, helped the team capture its first title since 2006. She followed up with 19 points in Northport’s 72-45 victory over Westhampton in the Suffolk overall championship.
“She carried us on her back,” Castellano said. “She’s done everything that she had to do. The leader for us, not just vocally, but also by example.”
Pavinelli averaged 13.7 points per game with four 20-plus point scoring efforts, but Castellano said her ability to lead wasn’t always in her stat line. He credited her willingness to play wherever the Tigers needed, whether that was directing the offense at point guard, driving the lane or holding strong on the block.
“She’s the epitome of a team player,” Castellano said. “We had her playing at the high post and she’d go to the rim. [Teams] try to put a big girl on her, she’ll blow right by them. If they put a small girl on her she’ll go above her.”
Castellano said Pavinelli’s on-court mindset will linger long after graduation.
“She has a refuse to lose mentality," Castellano said. "I use the word 'blessed' because now that whole idea is passed onto the next group of kids.”