Riverview, Freeport girls basketball ready to knock off rust

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Thursday, March 5, 2020 | 6:31 PM


The Riverview and Freeport girls basketball teams saw their stay in the WPIAL playoffs end with quarterfinal losses Feb. 20.

But after two weeks away from competition, the Raiders and Yellowjackets have new life in their respective PIAA tournaments.

Riverview begins state playoff action Friday against District 5 champion Everett in a Class 2A matchup at 6:30 p.m. at Pitt-Johnstown. Freeport gets another crack at Class 4A section foe and WPIAL champion North Catholic at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Kiski Area.

Third time’s the charm?

North Catholic, whose only loss this season is to WPIAL Class 5A champion Chartiers Valley, presents a stiff challenge for any team, but Freeport coaches and players aren’t shying away from another chance to knock off the Trojans (24-1).

The first meeting Jan. 2 was close in the first quarter before North Catholic pulled away and won 61-42.

The rematch Jan. 27 at Freeport Middle School was tied with five minutes left, but the Trojans went on a late run to score a 52-41 victory.

“We were so close in the fourth quarter, and we let it go,” Yellowjackets senior Harley Holloway said of the second meeting between the teams. “We know we have a good chance (Saturday).”

Senior Maddie Clark said: “In their wins, we’ve been one of the closest to beating them. We prepare so hard for them, and they know that. This time has been no different.”

Freeport (17-7) has pored over game film and sharpened its skills in the gym since its 54-52 WPIAL quarterfinal loss to No. 2 Southmoreland. The Yellowjackets also tested themselves last week in a scrimmage with Fox Chapel.

Senior Sidney Shemanski leads the team in scoring (12.7 points per game) and rebounds (8.4). She scored 16 against Southmoreland. Holloway (9.7 ppg), Clark (8.1) freshman Melaina DeZort (8.8) and senior Samantha Clark (8.6) also contribute.

Freeport last appeared in the PIAA playoffs in 2017, when it lost to Blackhawk in the first round. The Yellowjackets clinched a spot at states under the WPIAL’s follow-the-winner format when Southmoreland topped Central Valley in the semifinals Feb. 24.

North Catholic made it to the Class 4A state finals last season before losing to Bethlehem Catholic, 60-49.

The Trojans steamrolled through this season’s WPIAL tournament, winning their 20th WPIAL title with a 61-44 victory over Southmoreland last Friday. They won three playoff games by an average of 18 points.

Senior Emma Pospisil led all scorers in the title game with 18 points. Senior Kylee Lewandowski added 14, and senior Tess Myers, a Lower Burrell resident, scored 13.

“The atmosphere was really exciting the last time (at Freeport Middle School). Hopefully, it can be that way on Saturday,” Samantha Clark said.

Climbing Mount Everett

The last time Riverview played in the state tournament — 2016 — the Raiders faced relatively familiar foes in Ellis and Winchester Thurston.

In the PIAA first round Friday, the Raiders face an unknown commodity. Everett won its second straight District 5 Class 2A title a week ago with a dominant 65-45 victory over Windber.

Riverview senior guard Alyssa Cappa said the challenge from the 19-6 Warriors is formidable, but she is confident her team will be ready in its first game since losing to eventual WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin 15 days ago.

“We’ve worked hard in practice every day to be better than we were two weeks ago,” she said.

“We’re approaching Friday’s game like we do every game. We’re going to try our best, knowing we can win.”

Riverview clinched its place in the PIAA playoffs when Bishop Canevin beat Ellis in the WPIAL semifinals Feb. 24. The Raiders rallied past Burgettstown in the first round to put themselves in position to make it to states.

Senior guard Sydney McDonough averaged 12.5 points in her team’s two playoff contests.

“To have another chance to play a game with my teammates is more than I can ask for,” senior forward Francesca Lio said. “Still being able to come to practice every day, it’s a special feeling.”

Everett has several players who can make things happen, but Riverview coach Keith Stitt said the fuel that makes the engine go is senior 2,000-point scorer Kaitlyn Maxwell, an all-state guard who scored 41 points in the district title game.

“A lot of what they do offensively and defensively runs through her,” Stitt said. “Slowing her down to some degree will give us a chance.

“We’ve prepared for what (Everett) can do, and we’ve tweaked some things here and there and touched on some new things, but ultimately, they have to continue to perform like they have throughout the season. It’s another great opportunity. We’ll give it our best shot.”

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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