San Pedro’s Rita Fiorenza Is A Basketball Revelation
Rita Fiorenza is a three-time All-Marine League first team guard who has revitalized the San Pedro High girls basketball program. (photo: Jamaal K. Street)
The San Pedro High girls basketball team suffered its worst season ever in 2010-11, only winning once in 20 games. The program was headed south rapidly and there was no sign of any hope to return to respectability.
Suddenly, a change would come.
Gary Herrera would become the new coach, and not soon thereafter, a new star would come aboard in the form of a fabulous freshman guard named Rita Fiorenza.
From there, San Pedro girls basketball would never be the same again.
“I was very excited,” Fiorenza said of her first year with San Pedro. “I knew that our team would do well, but most importantly have fun. I knew I’d make a lot of new friends and memories with my teammates.”
It has been a slow, but smooth, transition, but Fiorenza has been the catalyst to a dramatic turnaround in turning San Pedro from a pushover into a threat in just three years and is already having a magnificent senior season without having to do too much for the surging Pirates, who will once again push the likes of Narbonne, Carson and Washington Prep in the Marine League.
Fiorenza, who began playing basketball at 9 years old, would pace San Pedro to a playoff berth in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I playoffs, even pulling off a 39-33 upset victory over Washington for their first win over the Generals since 1992. Fiorenza averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists in garnering All-Marine League first team honors.
However, there is one moment in her freshman season that Fiorenza gained instant notoriety.
In Fiorenza’s home debut, San Pedro trailed 42-40 to Elizabeth Learning Center with eight seconds to play, and no one knew who was going to be the one to come up with the clutch moment. So Fiorenza took the inbound pass after it slightly went over her right shoulder, drove to the basket, making a move to slightly avoid a Bulldog defender trying to draw a charging foul, and double clutching a layup in midair. It softly banked off the backboard and into the basket as time expired.
San Pedro eventually lost, 52-48 in overtime, but Fiorenza, who scored 18 points, earned her first signature moment.
“That play was a true test between faith and trust in myself,” Fiorenza said. “I had to take the chance to tie the game. After making that layup I couldn’t even process at the time how huge it was. But from then on, my confidence in my game grew tremendously.”
There was no sophomore slump for Fiorenza, as she started off the 2012-13 season with a 26-point barrage against University of Los Angeles, and scoring 23 points in the rematch with Elizabeth Learning Center, which the Pirates dominated with a 72-49 road victory. However, Fiorenza’s health would slow her down as an illness forced her to miss a few Marine League games. Despite that, San Pedro still made the playoffs again with just three league wins, and Fiorenza earned her second straight All-Marine League first team selection.
Year three in the 2013-14 season would be Fiorenza’s finest.
The Pirates started off the 2013-14 year 1-3, but after that, Fiorenza and San Pedro came back strong, finishing 14-9 overall, nearly tripling their win output of the 2012-13 season (5-13), and they even went 8-4 in the Marine League. Fiorenza would average 18 points, 7.2 assists, 3.1 steals and 4 rebounds a game in being named All-Marine League first team for a third straight year.
Fiorenza shined against crosstown neighbor Port Of Los Angeles, where she posted 26 points, 9 steals, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in powering San Pedro to a 56-38 victory, but another big game against Washington in the Marine League gave Fiorenza perhaps her greatest moment.
It was the first time in a long time where the crowd in the San Pedro gym was packed, and Fiorenza was not about to let the seven seniors lose on senior day, as she scored a career-high 31 points in leading the Pirates to a 66-63 overtime victory over the Generals. In fact, Fiorenza, who also had five assists, six rebounds and three steals, scored ten points in overtime, including nailing two backbreaking three-pointers.
“That game was a challenge for us but we came together and conquered it,” Fiorenza said of the win over Washington. “It was the best communication in a game our team had. We were really happy and excited afterwards.”
So far this season, San Pedro is 10-7 overall and Fiorenza is averaging 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, and is once again leading a balanced team that also features rising sophomore guard Deanna Valverde, junior forward Melannie Ortiz (South Torrance transfer) and sophomore center Iman Garba, who moved from Kentucky.
“Rita has a lot of talent and I’m definitely going to miss playing with her,” Valverde says. “She’s taught me so much and I respect her for that.”
Fiorenza, who also runs track, has a 3.5 GPA and is interested in playing college locally at either Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Biola or San Diego State.