Riverview girls turn attention to PIAA playoffs

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Sunday, March 3, 2024 | 11:01 AM


“It almost was a Cinderella story.”

Those were the descriptive words from Riverview coach Jill Catanzaro as her Riverview girls basketball team came close to upending No. 2 Aquinas Academy in a battle for the third-place spot in WPIAL Class A on Feb. 28.

The game at Shaler High School ultimately went the way of the Crusaders, 45-37, and finalized positioning for the PIAA playoffs, which begin Saturday at sites throughout the region.

Catanzaro said despite the loss, she is happy to see her players have the opportunity to be playing into March.

“We have the greatest kids,” she said “I wouldn’t trade them for anybody. They are respectful kids who are very coachable. They love and support each other. They play hard and play to win, but they also have fun together. Regardless of the outcome of any game, they are making great memories.”

Riverview (16-8) is set for its first trip to the PIAA playoffs since 2020, when it played District 5 champion Everett in the Class 2A first round at Pitt-Johnstown. The Raiders lost that game, 69-33.

It was a tough first-round exit in a state tournament that ended up canceled after the second round because of the spreading covid pandemic.

Catanzaro hopes for a different first-round outcome this time.

Riverview, as the No. 4 team from the WPIAL, will face District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle on Saturday.

Altoona’s Bishop Guilfoyle, the No. 1 seed in the District 6 tournament, rallied from a double-digit deficit to defeat defending district champion and No. 2 seed Williamsburg, 46-42, in the title game last week at Mt. Aloysius College.

Guilfoyle, last year’s District 6 runner-­up, made it to the 2023 second round before falling to District 9 champion Otto-Eldred. The Marauders had beaten Bishop Canevin in the first round.

Riverview’s road to the PIAA tournament began in the regular season when it finished second to St. Joseph in Section 3.

The Raiders drew the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the Class A bracket. After a break of more than a week, they began the WPIAL playoffs with a 44-23 victory over No. 5 Monessen at Fox Chapel.

Junior Katerina Tsambis led Riverview with 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Raiders defense clamped down on the Greyhounds for the second time this season. Riverview beat Monessen, 50-25, late in the regular season.

The Raiders then ran into a buzzsaw, as No. 1 Union, the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class A champion, didn’t give up much and made plays on offense to the tune of a 56-13 final Feb. 26, at North Allegheny.

“That was kind of like David and Golaith,” Catanzaro said. “They are an elite team. But we did some great things against them. We broke their press, and the girls didn’t give up at all.”

Riverview and Aquinas had just one day to shake off their semifinal losses and prepare for the rematch of a 63-34 Aquinas victory Dec. 2. The Crusaders fell into the third-place game after suffering a 65-56 loss to No. 3 St. Joseph at Fox Chapel.

“Against Aquinas the first time, we didn’t play well,” Catanzaro said. “We only had a couple of practices with the full team because of the soccer team (playing late into November). We showed the girls just how far they’ve come from that early game. If you take out the first quarter against St. Joseph when we played them at home (on Feb. 8), we played them pretty solid.”

In the latest meeting with Aquinas, Riverview led 16-12 after the first quarter, and the game was close into the fourth. Catanzaro said Aquinas’ depth helped them come away with the victory.

The Crusaders outscored the Raiders, 14-5, in the fourth quarter to rally from a one-point Riverview lead at the end of three. Catanzaro said her team missed opportunities to score down the stretch.

Aquinas made 7 of 9 foul shots — senior guard Emily Fisher was 4 for 4 in the final minutes — and Riverview was 0 for 4 from the line for the game.

“The refs missed some stuff, but they also let the girls play,” Catanzaro said.

Junior Tess Duer, one of Aquinas’ leading scorers throughout the season, led her team with 10 points. Three other Crusaders tallied seven points apiece.

Tsambis had 10 points on five baskets, while junior Lily Bauer hit a pair of 3-pointers and also finished with 10 points for the Raiders.

Sophomore Isabel Chaparro hit a trio of first-half 3-pointers and finished with nine points, while senior Lola Abraham scored eight.

Riverview was without a pair of depth players for their game with Aquinas: junior Gina Volpe, who is lost for the season because of injury, and junior Chiara Brun because of another school-related activity.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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