Apollo-Ridge boys basketball hopes rebuild is quick

Tuesday, February 22, 2022 | 12:13 PM

Greg Fox figured it might go like this.

The Apollo-Ridge boys basketball coach saw the writing of a bridge year on the wall after a successful 2020-21 season that included a trip to the WPIAL playoffs.

“No one lost as much as we did as far as graduation,” said Fox, in his fourth season with the Vikings. “We lost five seniors, five starters, 95% of our scoring and rebounding. You name it, we lost everything. So we knew it was going to be a rebuilding year.”

The Vikings had just that, going 4-18 with a 3-9 mark in Section 3-3A.

Perhaps a fitting description of the current state of the program: All four of Apollo-Ridge’s wins came against schools with “Valley” in their name. The Vikings topped Valley twice and earned wins over non-WPIAL foe River Valley, and a nice section victory over playoff-bound Steel Valley.

“Our section was pretty tough, and our nonsection was pretty tough,” Fox said. “Our goal was to get better every day in practice, to keep working and keep grinding.”

Apollo-Ridge had to deal with the absence of its point guard, Jake Mull, for the majority of the season after he was injured in the fourth game.

Mull returned to the court for the final two weeks of the year. His backup, Greg Fox’s son, Luke, was injured late in the year, as well.

“We only had our full squad together for three games,” Greg Fox said. “We thought Luke stepped in and played well. He was put in a tough situation. We tried to not put all of the point guard responsibilities on his shoulders, but it’s hard when you have young, inexperienced players. You’ve got to go through some growing pains.”

The good news for the Vikings is that the valley might not be all that steep. Mull, as well as the program’s other two top players, Gage Johnston and Carter Schrock, as well as Luke Fox, will return next season.

“(Johnston) is a pure, flat-out shooter,” Greg Fox said of his leading scorer. “The kid can shoot. Through the course of the season, the kids recognized that. I realized how unselfish our kids were. They gave up their shots to get Gage better shots.”

Greg Fox’s prerogative this offseason is an obvious one.

“Our Achilles’ heel was our turnovers,” he said. “We averaged over 25 turnovers per game. And we didn’t create very many turnovers. When you have a discrepancy like that, that’s not a good recipe for success.”

While the program’s top players are returning, Apollo-Ridge will lose six seniors.

“They’re good kids,” Fox noted.

“We told them we appreciate everything they did for us and how proud I was of their maturation in the three years I had them. They were great teammates and very supportive.”

Time will tell if Fox’s rebuild will be a swift one, but he believes the right pieces are in place to get the Vikings turned around in 2022-23.

“We’re excited for next year. We’re excited for what we have coming back,” he said.

“We took our lumps this year, but we’re hoping that the things we did this year pay off. It’s a big offseason for these kids.”


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