Riverview slows Cleveland to top Leechburg but loses out on playoff spot

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 | 10:05 PM

Riverview coach Phil McGivney said when his team is balanced on the score sheet, it normally comes out on the right side.

The Raiders were balanced Tuesday night with four players in double figures, and, combined with a defensive adjustment intended to slow down Leechburg standout Marcus Cleveland, it was enough to earn a 60-47 victory.

Though the Raiders (12-9, 4-7) won, they were eliminated from playoff contention. Jeannette’s 49-45 victory over Springdale ended any postseason hopes. The best the Raiders can do is tie Clairton for fourth in the Section 3-2A standings, but Clairton swept the season series and owns the tiebreaker.

Leechburg (7-13, 3-8) was also eliminated from the playoffs.

Riverview instituted a zone defense to try to contain Cleveland’s ability to drive the lane after he scored 35 in the first meeting, a 78-74 Leechburg win.

On Tuesday, the Raiders held Cleveland to 12 points.

“Holding him to 12 points I thought was a big deal,” McGivney said. “The last time he exploited us for 35 points, so we decided to take a more passive approach, sit back in a zone and let the other guys beat us. They made some shots, but I really liked the way our guys battled. In key possessions we held them to one shot, and we made our free throws down the stretch.”

Leechburg coach Damian Davies said not being able to convert on the offensive end on a consistent basis also hurt their cause defensively.

“They did a good job on Marcus,” Davies said. “He’s pretty tough to stop, but if teams are going to run zone and pack it in, we have to crack that jar and open it up, so we can get Marcus or Tyler (Foley) driving to the hoop. We just couldn’t do that. They did a good job of scoring, playing defense and making it difficult for us.

“Riverview shot well. They all look comfortable shooting the ball. Sometimes you just have to make some shots, and we just didn’t make enough shots against them. When we make shots we can get into our defense, and we like to play (press) defense. We couldn’t get into it, so that made it challenging.”

Amberson Bauer led Riverview with 14 points. Jack Betler scored 13, and Nate Sprajcar and Ben Hower had 11 each.

“All of the guys on the court for us have their strengths,” Bauer said. “I can shoot. Ben Hower can shoot. Jack (Betler) and Nate (Sprajcar) can drive and Luke Migely can handle the ball. Making shots works for me, but we all do it together. We’re all good together in a tandem.”

Riverview’s balance showed when Sprajcar picked up his fourth foul late in the third quarter and had to sit for about eight minutes.

When he left Riverview led 43-31, and the Raiders were able to keep the lead to eight points or more the rest of the way.

“We’ve had a lot of close games this year, so we know how to play under pressure,” Bauer said. “We know how to deal with situations that come upon us like Nate going out. We trust guys like Alex (Schultheis) coming in and giving some good minutes. It just comes down to trusting each other.”

Owen McDermott led Leechburg 16 points, but he fouled out with just over five minutes remaining. The Blue Devils also lost Tyler Foley and Brady Rolinger to injury during the game, so they were without three key players down the stretch.

“It was tough, but we played hard,” Davies said. “I’m proud of them for that.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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