Improving Riverview girls excited to tackle second half of section schedule

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020 | 5:32 PM


With a collection of experienced varsity players returning for this season, Riverview girls basketball coach Keith Stitt voiced an optimistic tone throughout preseason practices and scrimmages.

With 14 games now under his team’s belt, he feels that his players are rounding into form and ready to tackle the challenges of the second half of Section 2-2A play and put themselves in positive position for a spot in the WPIAL postseason.

“There are a lot of things that can still happen, and we have to be ready to play,” Stitt said. “Right now, I like how we are making better decisions at both ends of the court. Our turnovers have been way down, and we’ve rebounded more consistently. We’re getting a lot of second- and third-chance points, something we hadn’t had in games earlier in the year.”

With eight victories, Riverview already is just one triumph from its win total from all of last year when it posted a 9-13 overall mark. It finished last season 6-6 in section play and qualified for the playoffs.

But Stitt said his players can’t look too far ahead and must focus intently on each upcoming matchup.

Riverview finished the first half of section play 3-3. It trails Winchester Thurston, Serra Catholic and Ellis, who are tied for the section lead at 5-1.

The Raiders picked up a key victory in their playoff chase Jan. 9 with a 50-38 win over Brentwood, last year’s section co-champion.

Riverview, which is riding a four-game winning streak, started fast in the game, jumping ahead 16-7 after the first quarter. The Raiders led 26-15 at halftime and 40-24 at the end of three.

“That start really gave us a lot of momentum and confidence,” senior forward Alivia Schultheis said. “Everyone just kept doing their part and played well together. It worked out for us in the end.”

Seniors Sydney McDonough and Francesca Lio led the way with 22 and 15 points, respectively.

“Coach (Stitt) really put us in a good mindset to win that game,” McDonough said.

The win snapped a six-game losing streak to Brentwood.

“Brentwood is a younger team than what they’ve had the past couple of years, but they have some good players, and that was a good win for us on the road. It was one we really needed to have,” Stitt said. “They were missing a key player in that game who should be back the next time around. I’ve reminded the girls of that. They understand the next game will be a challenge, and there could be a lot on the line.”

McDonough leads the way for Riverview at 11 points a game, and Stitt said she’s also distributing the ball well at five assists per contest. She is averaging 16.8 points over her past four games.

“It’s exciting to see how we are working well as a team,” McDonough said. “We’re getting good opportunities to score on offense, and we’re communicating well on defense.”

Junior guard Eleni Wyrick, Stitt said, is set to return as early as Friday against nonsection foe Leechburg after recovering from a knee injury suffered right before Christmas.

“Eleni is one of our best defensive players, and she’s often matched up with the opponent’s best guard,” Stitt said. “She does so many positive things, and we’re really looking forward to getting her back.”

The Raiders were to open the second half of section play Thursday against Ellis, but that game has been moved to Feb. 8 and will be section finale for both teams. Stitt said it will serve as a potentially crucial contest for the playoffs and playoff positioning within the section.

The Riverview players said they let one slip away in their 47-39 loss at Ellis on Dec. 12. The Raiders attempted a rally in the second half, but a 12-point deficit at the break was too much to overcome.

Section play now resumes Monday at Serra Catholic.

Riverview hosts Jeannette on Jan. 23 before a rematch with Winchester Thurston on Jan. 27. The second game with Brentwood will be Feb. 3.

The Raiders are hoping to turn around their fortunes after tough losses to Serra (55-32) and Winchester Thurston (56-36) the first time around.

Senior guard Alyssa Cappa said the team learned from both games and is better off despite the outcomes.

“I think the game against Winchester was one of the better games we’ve played,” she said. “Our shots just weren’t falling as well as theirs were. The score definitely didn’t show how hard we worked and how much passion we had for that game.

“We know we have a chance to beat any team we face as long as we work hard, communicate, show up ready to go and do the things we know we can do. What we have coming up, it’s exciting.”

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

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