Riverview boys basketball expects to contend when team gets to full strength

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Friday, December 4, 2020 | 7:31 PM


The Riverview boys basketball team missed the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs last season, but it was within a few points of forging a different outcome.

The Raiders finished section play with a 4-10 record, but three games were decided by two points or less.

Learning from those experiences, veteran head coach Paul Sapotichne said his team, led by a trio of returning starters, hopes to surge back to the postseason.

“My expectations and the team’s expectations are very high,” Sapotichne said. “We have the chance to be better than Riverview has been in a number of years with some strong veteran players and some younger players who are ready to play.”

Sapotichne said his team is working to overcome a couple of early bumps.

• Four of the team’s top eight players, he said, have not practiced for a week and are expected out until the end of next week because of covid protocols.

• Senior guard Gideon Deasy, one of the team’s top scorers last season and the programs’s all-time assists leader, is expected to miss several weeks while recovering from a broken bone in his right ankle. The injury is the source of pain he experienced during the fall cross country season.

“It has put somewhat of a damper on our preparation for the season,” Sapotichne said.

Originally scheduled to compete at the now-canceled Plum Tip-Off Tournament, Riverview will open its season next Friday at Valley.

“We worked in the offseason as much as we could with this whole covid situation, and these things happened. It’s a little bit of a setback,” Sapotichne said. “I don’t want to feel bad for myself because I am sure a lot of teams are going through different situations. Although those four (in the protocol) are missing practice time, it’s better than them missing games. We look forward to getting those guys back and getting Gideon back when he is ready.”

Deasy, whom Sapotichne said is one of the better point guards in the WPIAL, averaged 15.2 points last season, and his 157 assists set the program’s single-season record.

“I’m still able to do a few basketball things while my ankle heals,” Deasy said. “I am looking forward to being 100 percent and at my best to help the team.”

Back in a starting role is senior guard Aiden Sebastian, who averaged 6.9 points last year. Senior guard/forward Dom Bovienzo started games last season and hopes to increase his role in the starting lineup.

Sapotichne is looking at junior guard/forward Micah Black to fill a starting spot in the lineup.

The fifth starter will come from a combination of several others.

The Raiders freshman team was 18-4 last year. Those players now are populating the varsity and junior varsity rosters.

Sapotichne said he’s excited to see what sophomore newcomers Jack Betler (6-foot-3) and Liam McElligott (6-4) can provide.

Junior Dean Cecere, a standout running back for the football team, and classmate Gio Pecora, one of the top JV players last year, are expected to contribute to the game plan.

Sapotichne said he also is counting on the experience of seniors Dom Scaserra, Frazier Detar and Matthew Frazier.

Riverview and rival Springdale remain in the same section, but there are new section foes.

Also in Section 1-2A is defending WPIAL Class 2A champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 2020 WPIAL semifinalist Shenango, playoff qualifier South Side and perennial playoff contender Sewickley Academy.

Springdale and Sto-Rox finished tied for the Section 1 championship last year. The Dynamos return their entire lineup.

“The WPIAL did us no favors,” Sapotichne said. “The section is very good, from top to bottom. It will be a challenge, but we hope to be right there.”

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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