A chance meeting brought Rosemarie Perrotta to the Union High girls basketball team.
It was the summer of 1975. Perrotta was outside where she usually spent those hot summer days, shooting hoops in her driveway.
“My mom was on the side porch and her work was done for the day and she was watching me shoot around,” Perrotta recalled. “I’d be like, ‘mom, what do you think from here?’ and she’d say, ‘oh, it’s a straight in swish.’ She’d watch me take shots from all over the place and they usually went in.”
It was during one of those summer shooting sessions that a car pulled into the driveway. It was then-Lady Scots coach John Takacs that got out.
“He was the student driving teacher and he often drove around and saw me out shooting in the backyard,” she said.
Takacs approached Perrotta’s mother, complimented her daughter’s slick shooting and, despite the fact Rosemarie hadn’t even began the eighth grade, offered her a chance to join his team. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
That would be the start of what would be a successful basketball career for Perrotta —one filled with record-breaking performances and accolades from Union to Westminster College.
Now, it will take her to another place— the hall of fame. Perrotta, 50, will be one of 11 honorees inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame on April 28 at the New Englander.
“I’m very humbled and honored,” she said. “I never thought that somebody would pick up on my basketball years and dive into my statistics, and my playing at Union and Westminster and put it into words so the committee could actually look at it and vote on it.”
MAKING A NAME
Going up against older girls, some as much as five or six years older, in her early days with the Lady Scots wasn’t much of an issue for Perrotta. After all, she’d been facing tough competition all of her life.
“There were all older boys except maybe one other girl in the neighborhood. I loved to play with the boys. I had to hope there’d be an odd number of them so I had a chance to play.”
Although Takacs acted as her first coach in high school, it was Perrotta’s older brother, Angelo, who she considers her first mentor on the court.
“We used to play in the backyard,” she said. “The first time I broke away for a layup, next thing I know, I get slammed against the garage. I fly one way and the ball flies the other way. I turned around and looked at him and was just like, ‘seriously?’ He said to me, ‘you got to learn to make the layup when you get fouled.’ ”
Those lessons were picked up quickly. As a ninth-grader, Perrotta conquered a rare feat by completing a four-point play. In a game on March 5, 1977 against New Brighton, she was fouled after banking in a 20-footer. She was awarded a one-and-one and made both.
“Being the youngest on the team and the youngest on the court at the time, I was just stunned and happy it got our offense going,” Perrotta said. “That’s what the result of it was. Our offense was not making any shots and not playing up to their ability. It was one of those moments that turned the game around. ”
Perrotta put herself in the record books in 1979. In a game against Villa Maria, she bucketed a whopping 43 points. That performance put her at the top of both the Union and Lawrence County list of highest point total for a girl in a single game. What makes the total even more impressive is that Perrotta did it without the luxury of a 3-point line.
“That was one of those magical evenings. Anything I shot, it went in,” she said. “I knew my parents were in the crowd watching. Some cousins, my aunts and uncles and grandparents were there.
“You could tell when the other team got frustrated because they would call a timeout. As I was going to the bench, you could feel the excitement in the crowd.”
It was moments like that and ones spent with her Lady Scots teammates that Perrotta treasures to this day.
“It’s the camaraderie. We were a sisterhood and we still are,” she said. “They’re friendships that have really withstood the years.”
Teammates like Mary Curran, Diane Flynn Ostrowsky, Kim Adams Genova and Jo Anne Bok Altmyer have managed to keep in touch after more than 30 years.
“Five years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer,” Altmyer recalled. “My family lived in Illinois but came back to Pennsylvania, and the year we moved backed was when I was diagnosed. Rose was there to help in whatever way. There was one time my husband was out of town and he couldn’t rearrange his work schedule, so Rose took me to a chemo treatment.
Recently celebrating five years of being cancer free, Altmyer sent her friend a text with the good news.
“I don’t know what more to say, she would always be there for me, no matter what. If I would call her at two in the morning, she would pick up the phone.”
Altmyer, a Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame member herself, broke Perrotta’s single-game mark with 47 points against Riverside during her senior year. By that time, Perrotta had moved on to college, but not without a few honors to her name. She was voted the “Best Lawrence County Female Athlete” in her senior year, and also was a four-year letterwinner in throwing the javelin, shot put and discus in track and in basketball.
The next step in her playing career was at Westminster College. The opportunity to stay close to home was too good to pass up.
“I liked math and computer science and Westminster offered me a partial scholarship,” Perrotta said. “I wanted to kind of stay close to home and all three lined up.”
Her game never missed a beat as a member of the Lady Titans, as she earned second-team all-conference with 15.3 points a game as Westminster’s leading scorer her freshman year.
“Going there at the time, they put more of an emphasis on going out and having fun,” Perrotta said. “When I came in with a bunch of other Tri-County players, we wanted to not make it so much of a social club, but a team that would make the playoffs, too.”
The Lady Titans would make the playoffs three out of the four years while Perrotta was there.
She would set another record her freshman year with 34 points against Thiel College. Just like her 43-point mark at Union, the 34 established a single-game scoring record for women at the time.
In her senior season, Perrotta tallied 17.6 points a game and was named Westminster’s “Player of the Week” on several occasions. She was the team’s only four-year letterwinner when she graduated in 1984.
Options were limited for women looking to further their basketball careers at college when Perrotta graduated, so her playing days subsequently came to an end. She pursued her passion for computers and mathematics and eventually landed a job Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, which assists schools with programs and special needs.
Although her playing days are over, her love for the game of basketball will never fade.
“My mother asked me once, ‘If you had to do it over again, would you?’ I told her without a doubt mom, yes. I definitely would play and encourage any young girl to get into an organized sport.”
MONDAY: Evan Lipp.