Once Samantha Guastella has a little motivational fodder it’s best to just step back and stay out of the way.
There were those, for instance, who questioned the former Red Bank Catholic star’s ability to compete at the Div. I level.
In her four years at Quinnipiac they’ve won an eye-popping 105 games, and are unbeaten this season since non-conference losses to Notre Dame (31-2) and Florida Gulf Coast (28-2). They won their 21st straight on Monday to improve to 31-3 when they ended Marist’s streak of nine straight MAAC Tournament titles.
Did I mention Guastella, a 6-2 forward who played with her back to the basket at RBC, has connected on 103-of-241 from 3-point range. That’s 43 percent, which ranks 13th nationally and third among player who have hoisted 175 or more from beyond the arc this season.
“”When she was in high school she used to go down to the Red Bank YMCA and play against the guys four or five days a week,” RBC coach Joe Montano said. “”She just decided how good she wanted to be and worked incredibly hard to make that happen.”
Then there were little matters like the loss to Monmouth in the Northeast Conference semifinals her freshman year at Quinnipiac. It proved to be the impetus for a 2012-13 campaign in which the Bobcats went 30-3, losing 72-52 in the NCAA Tournament to a nationally-ranked Maryland team that was a year away from a Final Four appearance.
And no one took last year’s defeat at the hands of Marist in their first-ever MAAC Tournament final to heart more than Guastella, who now heads into her second NCAA appearance averaging 12.9 points and 5.7 rebounds.
“”Our freshman class, we all had that refuse-to-lose mentality,” she said. “”We did not want to be just an average team. We wanted excellence and we wanted to people to know the Quinnipiac name, and how to pronounce it and know where we’re from, and that we played serious basketball.”
They certainly checked all those boxes.
Now, Guastella has no intention of having her college career end quietly, hoping to follow the blueprint provided by mid-majors like Marist. The Red Foxes have won five NCAA Tournament games since 2007, when they reached the Sweet 16.
“”I think it was a lot like how our first year in MAAC went,” she said. “”That first year you experience the feeling of seeing bigger teams. This year, we’ve already gotten to see how the NCAA works, and experience a first-round game. We’re hoping we can get a good seed based on our body of work and be more prepared to advance this time.”
It was the foundation put in place at the Jersey Shore that has helped make all this possible for the Red Bank native.
“”I think her senior year there were something like 18 girls who went on to play Div. I basketball from the Shore Conference,” Montano said. “”She came up with a really good crop of kids.”
Added Guastella: “”In college I have played against so many girls I knew from high school. It was just great competition. I’m always thinking about where I came from and how it made me better. I remember my freshman year at RBC I barely made the varsity. And by my senior year I was a team leader and able to play at Quinnipiac. I look back at coach Montano’s practices and how they helped me improve, and how much better the competition made me.”
And you get the feeling that whoever ends up drawing the Gaustella and the Bobcats in next week’s opening round, they’re going to get one heck of a fight.
Staff writer Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist: email@example.com; Twitter: @SteveEdelsonAPP