When Angela DeSalvo's family moved to Severna Park in August, she felt "really uncomfortable, like I didn't fit in."
"There were a lot of cliques at the school," she said, "and I felt out of place until basketball season."
Now, she's getting along just fine. And her team is doing even better.
With the shooting touch and strength to score from the perimeter or in the lane, DeSalvo has emerged as one of the county's most impressive underclassmen. A 5-foot-8 guard, she leads Severna Park in scoring at 13.4 points per game, averages 5.5 rebounds and is a big reason why the Falcons are a surprising 14-1 and ranked No. 11 in the metro area going into today's meeting with No. 17 Arundel.
Severna Park was unranked at the beginning of the season. DeSalvo, 16, was an unknown sophomore transfer from Florida who showed some skills while playing for the Green Hornets' recreational summer-league team. It became a perfect match.
"I was told that she looked pretty good, and I had some parents tell me she was a decent kid, so I went up and took a look," said Falcons coach Kevin McGrath. "I was impressed with how fundamentally sound she was and with her knowledge of the game. I could see that she moved well without the ball.
"Once I saw her, I said, 'This looks like a kid who can play at our level.' How much she would be able to contribute, I wasn't sure."
Neither was DeSalvo.
"I thought I would do well," she said, "but leading scorer? I had no idea."
As a freshman at Niceville High, she was the first player off the bench before forcing her way into the starting lineup during the middle of the season. She averaged 9.5 points a game, and her team made the regional semifinals.
Then came the move to Severna Park, and the prospect of starting over.
"My father's in the Air Force and I've moved six times since I've been born, so I'm kind of used to it," she said. "It's nothing new. I was kind of excited about it."
Many of her performances on the court have been nothing short of exhilarating, such as when she scored 26 points against Southern, including eight free throws in the last 53 seconds. She also made a crucial steal during that span, and the Falcons posted a 57-43 victory.
Against Seton Keough, she scored six of her 13 points in overtime to ensure a 57-50 win, and she led the Falcons with 11 points in their only loss, 51-36, to Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.) in a Christmas tournament.
"I seem to do a lot better when it comes down to pressure. I guess I feel like it's my time to come through. I kind of step up when I feel there's more pressure on myself," she said.
Her worst game was against Chesapeake, when she failed to score. But that was due to a migraine headache, and she said, "As long as we won, that's fine. I'd rather do badly and still win than do great and lose."
She came back with a vengeance, racking up 28 points in a 79-56 victory over Northeast and 18 in a 57-38 triumph over North County, marking the eighth time that she had led the team in scoring.
DeSalvo has lived in five states, including California, Florida, Massachusetts and New York, but said she likes it here best.
"It's more community related. I feel comfortable. I feel like I fit in," she said.
That's quite a switch from the summer, when DeSalvo was an outsider trying to make friends.
Severna Park, itself an outsider when the preseason rankings were being compiled, is once-beaten and firmly entrenched in the Top 20. And a previously unknown sophomore has made a name for herself.