With struggles behind them, Riverview boys again thinking playoffs

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Friday, November 29, 2019 | 5:17 PM


The Riverview boys basketball team last earned a trip to the WPIAL playoffs in 2015.

The Raiders have experienced their share of hard times since then.

But the team made strides in the win column last year, and with several players with starting experience back, the optimistic expectation that Riverview could challenge for a postseason spot out of Section 1-1A is in place.

“We worked hard, practiced a ton and did everything we could, but we didn’t see all the results we wanted,” junior point guard Gideon Deasy said concerning last year’s outcome. “But coming back, we’ve continued to put in the time and have grown as a team. I think that will help us be a better team.”

Riverview finished 7-14 overall last year, a five-game improvement from the 2017-18 season (2-19). It also won four times in section play — beating playoff qualifiers Springdale and Summit Academy — after going winless two years ago.

“We understood what we needed to do to get better, and we worked hard for it,” senior guard/forward Thanny Black said. “We have a great chance of making the playoffs. The atmosphere is really positive.”

The Raiders were 4-3 in the section before losing their last seven to fall out of the playoff chase.

Leading rebounder Jack Stock (7.1 a game) and Noah Black (13.4 points) were lost to graduation, but Deasy, Black and three others with starting experience — senior guard Nate Black, senior forward Jack Harden and junior guard Aiden Sebastian — are back.

“Nothing was guaranteed, so that just pushed us to work even harder,” Deasy said of the battle for starting spots entering the season. “That makes the practices so competitive.”

Deasy, a starter the past two seasons, recorded 146 assists last year — an average of seven a game — and the total surpassed the program’s previous single-season record. He added 7.3 points and 3.6 steals.

“Gideon’s not very big in stature, but he’s tough-minded,” coach Paul Sapotichne said.

“He’s unselfish, but he can also score. We were in every game we played over the summer, no matter who we played, as long as Gideon was on the floor. He sets the tone and really can handle pressure situations.”

Thanny Black (6-foot-2) led the team in scoring last year with a 13.5 average, and he averaged 7.1 rebounds.

“Thanny has made great strides from a strong junior season,” Sapotichne said. “He can shoot the basketball and can take it to the hoop with quickness and power. He has decent size for us. Thanny and Gideon really play well together.”

In addition to the five returnees, Sapotichne said others who primarily were on JV team last year, junior guard James Williams and junior guard/forward Dom Bovienzo, are expected to take on bigger roles.

“We continue to evaluate a number of players every day in practice,” he said.

Overall, the team is young with just the three seniors. But Sapotichne likes the trajectory of the program with 58 players from seventh to 12th grade.

“We’ve worked hard at building up the program, and more and more people are interested,” he said.

Winchester Thurston is the defending section champion. The Bears and section runner-up Sto-Rox were eliminated in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

“I think we have one of the tougher sections in the WPIAL,” Thanny Black said. “There are six teams with a good shot to make the playoffs. There are no games off. It’s going to be about the journey, and we have to be focused on putting the work in every day.”

Riverview kicks off its season Friday at 6 p.m. against Carmichaels at the Geibel Catholic Tip-Off Tournament. After nonsection games against Aquinas Academy and Derry, the Raiders open section play Dec. 13 against Summit Academy.

“There’s no reason to believe we won’t be significantly better,” Sapotichne said. “We know some of the top teams in the section like Winchester Thurston, Sto-Rox and Summit Academy are strong and will be right up there again, but we’re not afraid to compete against them. If we play smart and can shoot the ball well, we’ll be OK.”

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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