‘It’s Here’: Senior Night Provides Chance to Reflect On Dynamic Senior Class’ Impact and Everything to Come


Matthew Levine, Editor in Chief

 When the six current seniors on the girls varsity basketball team joined the varsity team as sophomores, there was a major learning curve involved. 


The Raiders finished 9-17 that year and 2-8 in their division. 


Now, the Raiders are 15-3 after their 74-19 victory over Hillside on senior night, extending its win streak to 10. SPF has the number three seed in the Union County Tournament and is in the midst of its best season under head coach Ryan McKenna. 


“They’re great leaders,” McKenna said. “They came up when they were sophomores and it wasn’t easy — we had nine wins that year. We were 12-3 last year, 15-3 this year. They’ve learned how to win together and they’re the reason that the program is what it is.” 


The contributions of seniors Emily Friscia, Ashley DeFrancesco, Gabby Palermo, Catie Wilson, Julia DeVizio and Bridget Carter cannot be talked about enough. 


“I’ve been with all of them since I was 14 and it’s definitely really hard to lose them,” junior center Allie Murphy said. “They’ve been the nicest group of girls that I’ve ever come across, right from the start. They just grouped me in with them. It didn’t matter if I was a year younger, it didn’t matter if I made mistakes. I can’t recall any point when any of them got mad at me for anything, so just a great group of girls, and I’m really proud of all of them.” 


While sophomore Amanda Baylock leads the team with 237 points, Friscia is second with 208 points. Friscia has been automatic from beyond the three-point line this season leading the team with 35 made three-pointers, 13 more than Baylock who comes in at 22. 


SPF has only given up more than 50 points once this season — in a 61-55 victory against South Plainfield on Jan. 10. The Raiders’ defensive success starts with DeFrancesco at the top of their signature 1-3-1 defense. 


Head Coach Ryan McKenna told The Fanscotian after the home opener against Governor Livingston on Dec. 17, “The unsung hero is always Ashley DeFrancesco. She’s on the top of that 1-3-1 and she makes that defense. If she’s not there, we don’t run it.”  


DeFrancesco leads the team with 75 steals on the year and is fourth in scoring with 120 points. The next closest players in steals are Friscia with 46 and Baylock with 45, respectively. 


Besides the damage they do to the opposition in the box score, DeFrancesco and Friscia are responsible for the camaraderie amongst the team. 


“I think especially our captains, Ashley and Friscia have done a good job of keeping everyone positive,” Murphy said. “I think also the fact that we’ve all been playing with each other for so long. Me, Ashley, and Frisch have been starting together for so long so that chemistry that a lot of teams have to build from the start, we’ve had that.” 


Palermo and Wilson have been crucial this season as role players off the bench, possessing excellent basketball IQ and doing the little things well. 


“Gabby and Catie, they come off the bench for us and they always bring a different energy to the court,” McKenna said. “Katie is such a great rebounder and a shot blocker, and she scores points when necessary — she’s an underrated passer too. When we get the ball into the post, she’s always looking to pass. Gabby plays all the positions on the court —she knows what the center is supposed to do, the point guard is supposed to do, she’ll do it all for us. She’s a spark [to this team that we] put in the back, put at the top — we’ll put her anywhere on the court.” 


Senior night isn’t about celebrating the win against Hillside; it’s about celebrating everything to come. The Raiders have become one of the top teams in Union County this season thanks to its senior class, as they gear up for the postseason and beyond. 


“Counties is a true team effort, states is going to be a team effort as well,” McKenna said. “We need every minute from every person. I just talked in the hall about having practice tomorrow and saying, we got to get things really tight. One out-of-bounds play scoring can be the difference in the game. We’re in postseason territory and these were our goals. We wanted to have a home game in counties — we’re the three seed so we’re going to have a home game and more. We’re very confident, and we expect to do well now. Now it’s like, it’s here, so we want to take advantage of it.”