Riverview basketball teams look forward to open playoffs

Saturday, February 20, 2021 | 9:01 AM

When the WPIAL announced in December that it would stage open playoff tournaments for basketball, fearing unbalanced section standings would create issues in determining playoff qualifiers, the Riverview girls basketball team knew it would be one of the participants.

But Raiders veteran coach Keith Stitt said he didn’t want his young team to relax already knowing they would be in the mix.

“The girls were aware of the situation and the special steps the WPIAL was taking for the playoffs,” Stitt said.

“But we also talked about not wanting to leave it to a single option for making the playoffs. We also wanted to be in position to make the playoffs had it still been the normal process of qualifying with section wins. We wanted to earn it, and I think we put ourselves in position to do that.”

Riverview stood at 5-5 overall and 4-5 in the section after a loss to Clairton on Feb. 17. The Raiders were one of the top four teams in the section heading into a section rematch Saturday with St. Joseph that was to be played past the deadline for this week’s edition. The Spartans won the first meeting 39-28 on Feb. 4.

“Things have gone OK with such a young team,” Stitt said. “We would like to think we could’ve done better, but we lost a couple of close ones and a couple of tough ones. Aquinas Academy and Clairton are pretty good teams in the section, and St. Joseph is much improved.”

Riverview also was to play rival Springdale on Tuesday in a game rescheduled from December.

“The kids love to play Springdale,” Stitt said. “It was a good thing to have that opportunity again after having played in the same section for many years. It’s important to them.”

Seniors Teneaja Sheffey and Elena Wyrick were honored in a ceremony before the Feb. 11 matchup with section-leading Aquinas.

The playoff brackets for each of the six boys and girls tournaments were expected to be revealed Tuesday with playoff games to start as early as Saturday.

Despite a tough go of it in and out of section play over the past month and a half, the Riverview boys basketball team also is set to compete in the open playoffs. Heading into last Thursday’s Section 1-2A matchup with Sewickley Academy, Riverview stood at 2-10 overall and 1-8 in the section.

“I have six seniors, and they have been with me since I got the job,” Raiders boys coach Paul Sapotichne said.

“Though our record is not very good, obviously, I asked them about the playoffs, and they said they would like to play. I told them that I would be happy to be a part of this with them. Their attitude has been terrific, they work hard, they listen and they care.”

Sapotichne said the team has done its best to maneuver through the season with all of the uncertainties of covid and also has kept battling through a challenging section slate, which includes Trib HSSN Class 2A No. 1 OLSH and No. 3 Springdale.

Shenango, which earned a top-five ranking earlier in the season, topped Springdale, 58-38, on Feb. 16.

Riverview took the rival Dynamos to overtime Jan. 19.

“The section has been extremely difficult,” Sapotichne said. “They are used to seeing those good teams, so they will be prepared to face whoever they are matched up with in the playoffs.”

Senior Gideon Deasy, a leading scorer on the team who owns school records for assists, missed the first four games while recovering from a broken bone in his foot.

“Gideon just hasn’t been the same as he was because, I’m sure, he’s playing on a pretty sore foot,” Sapotichne said.

“He has done well, but not as well as I am sure he expects from himself.”

Riverview was slated to cap its regular season last Friday with a nonsection matchup against Northgate. That game, and the matchup with Sewickley Academy, were to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

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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