Boys basketball preview: After breakthrough season, Apollo-Ridge steps up in class

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Monday, November 23, 2020 | 5:44 PM


The Apollo-Ridge boys basketball team is moving on up.

After a successful 2019-20 season that saw the Vikings earn a trip to the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs, an experienced roster will test its mettle in Class 3A this winter.

Coach Greg Fox said the new section, with the likes of WPIAL semifinalist South Allegheny, playoff qualifiers Steel Valley and Shady Side Academy, and WPIAL newcomer Ligonier Valley, will be a formidable challenge. But it’s a challenge, he said, they are ready to take head on.

“The section is very good,” Fox said. “We got a chance to play South Allegheny last year (64-37 loss), and they have everybody back. We look forward to playing them twice this year. We’re learning more and more about the other guys. The section will be competitive this year, just as it was for us in double-A last year.”

The Vikings come into the season with momentum after finishing 16-7 overall and 10-4 in Section 1-2A (third place). They battled Brentwood down to the wire in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Fox said the four-point playoff loss didn’t take the shine off what was a breakthrough season.

Also, a good number of the basketball players play football, and Fox hopes momentum from a trip to the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals will carry over.

Apollo-Ridge welcomes back five starters in seniors Klay Fitzroy (6-foot-5 guard/forward), Jake Fello (guard), Keighton Reese (guard), Dom Reiter (guard) and Zander Garrone (forward).

“There’s a lot of excitement to get this season started,” Fox said. “For the preliminary sign-ups, we had 40 kids sign up from freshman on up.”

Because of covid safety measures, practice for Apollo-Ridge’s winter athletic seasons will begin Dec. 7. The team must hold a certain number of practices before it can scrimmage and play games.

Several December games, including section matchups against Valley and Steel Valley, will have to be rescheduled to January or February.

“I hope we can reschedule every game,” Fox said. “I want to get in our 22-game schedule. It will come down to if the WPIAL or PIAA will extend the last day of the regular season. I don’t know right now.”

Also, the annual Apollo-Trust Company holiday tournament will not take place this year. Instead, Fox said, the Vikings hope to start their season with games against the tournament opponents — Leechburg and Saltsburg — on back-to-back days at the end of the month.

“We really want to get into the gym and start to put in the work,” said Fitzroy, who is 51 points shy of 1,000 for his career. “We want to use the down time to continue to physically and mentally prepare for the season. We’re excited for this season. We know we are going to have to work extra hard in moving up to 3A.”

Fitzroy paced the team in scoring last year at 20 points a game and also averaged 8.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

Fello, who led Apollo-Ridge with 25 points in the playoff game, was second on the team in scoring at 15 points a game, and he added five rebounds per game.

Reese (13.8 ppg) led the team with 70 3-pointers.

Fox said 6-6 junior center Gavin McCall and junior guard Wryder Frickanisce are expected to figure prominently in the rotation.

“We were going to use the spring and summer to work on our rotation and see what we had, but because of covid, it just wiped everything out,” Fox said.

“There is a little tighter window this year, I guess, to figure out how many will be in the rotation. Once everything gets started with practices, scrimmages and games, we’ll have a better feel for it. I think we will have great competition in practice for playing time. Having all of those big moments last year, the kids understand where that level needs to be in practice and in games.”

Apollo-Ridge boys at a glance

Coach: Greg Fox

Last year’s record: 16-7 (10-4 Section 1-2A)

Returning starters: Jake Fello (Sr., G), Dom Reiter (Sr., G), Klay Fitzroy (Sr., G/F), Keighton Reese (Jr., G), Zander Garrone (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Wryder Frickanisce (Jr., G)

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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