Northeast Times

Proud to be a Panda

“I think we’ll get to the cham­pi­on­ship. It’s go­ing to be rough be­cause some of the teams we play are tough. We def­in­itely have the tal­ent, and I think we’re strong be­cause if one play­er isn’t do­ing well, the oth­ers will pick her up. We all keep each oth­er pos­it­ive.” — Dani­elle Gasperi

Start­Frag­ment

If there’s one thing that Dani­elle Gasperi has plenty of, it’s chem­istry. Wheth­er she’s on the bas­ket­ball court or in the classroom, the Naz­areth Academy High School seni­or has a way of stand­ing tall.

In school, she’s an hon­or stu­dent who par­ti­cip­ates in Naz­areth’s Com­munity Ser­vice Corps and Nas­daq and chem­istry clubs.

“In CSC, you vo­lun­teer and do com­munity ser­vice. In the chem­istry club, you do dif­fer­ent ex­per­i­ments, and Nas­daq is a busi­ness club,” Gasperi ex­plained. “Last year, in chem­istry club, we made ice cream. I like the ones with food. We blew up a gummy bear once, too. It’s really fun.”

Once the fi­nal bell rings, she’s cre­at­ing chem­istry on the bas­ket­ball court with her team­mates. A start­ing for­ward for the Pan­das’ varsity squad, Gasperi has helped guide her team to a 14-7 re­cord along­side her two co-cap­tains, Brid­get So­bon and Raya Ste­arn — who also hap­pen to be her best friends.

“We’ve all been on the team to­geth­er all four years and I played AAU with them,” ex­plained Gasperi, re­fer­ring to the North­east Rock­ers AAU squad. “Since we’ve played to­geth­er for so long, we know what each oth­er is go­ing to do. We have that chem­istry.”

Most re­cently, the Pan­das squeezed past Gwynedd-Mercy for a thrill­ing 45-43 vic­tory on Feb. 2. Nicole Dom­browski and Gasperi led their team in scor­ing with 10 points each. On Gwynedd-Mercy’s side, Car­oline Shim­rock scored a team-high 16 points.

Naz­areth was sched­uled to play Mount Saint Joseph in their fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son bout on Tues­day. The game was played after the Times went to press this week.

“The sea­son has been go­ing great,” said Gasperi. “We’re do­ing bet­ter than I ex­pec­ted. We lost four of our five starters to gradu­ation last year. We’re do­ing a lot bet­ter.”

In ad­di­tion to a new core lineup this sea­son, the Pan­das are work­ing with a new head coach. John Turn­er — who had been Naz­areth’s as­sist­ant coach — was pro­moted to boss at the start of the sea­son.

“We got a new coach this year and he chose the seni­ors as cap­tains,” ex­plained Gasperi. “We all work to­geth­er to keep the team to­geth­er.”

This year’s trio of seni­or cap­tains have been to­geth­er since their fresh­man cam­paign. They have shared the grow­ing pains, ad­ap­ted to new coaches, and waited pa­tiently for their chance to claim a star­ring role.

Now it’s their time to shine.

“I wasn’t really up­set with my play­ing time last year,” ex­plained Gasperi. “It’s tough play­ing be­hind a lot of seni­ors. It was tough for every­one to wait their turn, but you know it’ll come even­tu­ally.”

For Gasperi, it was worth the wait. The for­ward has tal­lied more than 10 points per game this sea­son. She had a per­son­al-high 21 points against St. Hubert on Dec. 18 and scored 20 points against Ne­sham­iny on Dec. 27.

“She has really been great for us all year long,” said coach Turn­er. “Be­cause of her size, she plays as a guard, but she can mix it up, which makes her really valu­able to us.

“We’ve had some tough games, but an­oth­er thing with a kid like that, you al­ways feel like you have a shot to come back,” he ad­ded. “She has that drive about her on game day. At any point she can really go off and take it to the oth­er team.”

Gasperi hopes to con­tin­ue her bas­ket­ball ca­reer in col­lege next year. Al­though she hasn’t chosen a school yet, she’d en­joy at­tend­ing Gwynedd Mercy Col­lege, In­di­ana Uni­versity of Pennsylvania or Al­ver­nia Uni­versity in Read­ing. She wants to study nurs­ing.

“My broth­er and a lot of my cous­ins are nurses,” Gasperi ex­plained. “I went in­to work with my broth­er (Chris) when he worked at Hahne­mann and I really liked it.”

In the mean­time, she’s do­ing everything pos­sible to en­sure that her fi­nal sea­son with the Pan­das is a suc­cess­ful one.

“I think we’ll get to the cham­pi­on­ship. It’s go­ing to be rough be­cause some of the teams we play are tough,” Gasperi said. “We def­in­itely have the tal­ent, and I think we’re strong be­cause if one play­er isn’t do­ing well, the oth­ers will pick her up. We all keep each oth­er pos­it­ive.

“I love play­ing at Naz­areth be­cause I love play­ing with my friends,” she con­tin­ued. “It’s ex­cit­ing to think about gradu­ation, but it’s go­ing to be sad to leave. I love Naz­areth. I know I’ll miss it.” ••

End­Frag­ment

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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