Playoff near-misses motivate Riverview girls

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Friday, November 29, 2019 | 5:31 PM


The Riverview girls basketball team suffered heartbreak two seasons ago with a buzzer-beating, one-point loss to Serra Catholic in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

The Raiders were the No. 12 seed that day, but they came within an eyelash of pulling off the upset.

Last season, Riverview again was a first-round underdog, a No. 11 seed, and it gave South Side all it could handle before losing by 11 points.

“What is motivating us most is getting past the first round of the playoffs,” said senior forward Francesca Lio, who averaged a double-double last year with 10 points and 10 rebounds for a Raiders squad that graduated no seniors.

With everyone back, optimism abounds.

“We put in a lot of work in the offseason with games and open gyms,” Lio said. “The energy has always been high, but now it’s even more exciting, and the anticipation is growing for the start of the season.”

Riverview hopes to improve on last year’s 9-13 overall record. The Raiders finished in a three-way tie for third in Section 2-2A with Ellis and Winchester Thurston at 6-6, and all three teams made the playoffs.

Brentwood and Serra Catholic tied for the section title at 11-1.

Coach Keith Stitt said he likes what he sees from his team so far, including the leadership of a group of six seniors — Lio, as well as forward/guard Annie Betler, guard Alyssa Cappa, forward Mikaela Collins, guard Sydney McDonough and forward Alivia Schultheis.

“This (senior) group has been together for about six years, counting junior high,” Stitt said. “It’s a really good group. Hopefully, they can have a good final year. They’ve worked really hard.”

McDonough averaged 10 points and four assists in full-time starting duty, while Betler also held down a consistent starting spot in the rotation.

Schultheis, the tallest of the seniors at 5-foot-11, is hoping for a full season after missing all but a couple of games last year with a knee injury.

Cappa missed a sizeable chunk of last season because of a heart condition. She said she also is feeling no ill effects from a knee injury suffered during soccer this fall.

“My teammates push me to be better because this is a big season,” Cappa said. “We have a chance to go further than we have before. As long as we all stay healthy, I think we can do even better than expected.”

Stitt said junior guard Eleni Wyrick is ready to continue making her mark after seeing a great deal of starting time last year.

Junior 5-11 forward Tenaeja Sheffey and sophomore guard Maddie Deem, Stitt added, have been pushing for varsity minutes.

“I feel we have a solid nine-player rotation,” said Stitt, who got a chance to see what his team could do in Tuesday’s scrimmage at St. Joseph. “They all had a good offseason and have proven they are ready to play.”

Riverview will host Knoch in a second scrimmage Tuesday before opening the season next Friday and Saturday at the Deer Lakes Tip-Off Tournament.

“The key for us will be to work as a team, communicate effectively on the court and play for each other,” Lio said.

The Raiders will pay a visit to East Allegheny on Dec. 9 before beginning section play at Ellis on Dec. 12.

“The section will be a challenge again, and we have our work cut out for us,” Stitt said. “But if we can stay healthy and play like I know we can, we can compete in every game and pick up some wins.”

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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