Apollo-Ridge boys begin quest for rare playoff berth
After getting experience as freshmen last season, Apollo-Ridge sophomore guards Tre Tipton and Alex Smith are set to help the Vikings jump back into playoff contention.
Apollo-Ridge, which finished 10-12 overall and 2-10 in Section 1-AA last season, has made the WPIAL playoffs just once in the past nine seasons and hasn't won a playoff game since 2003.
But fourth-year coach Matt Gourley said he believes the Vikings have the ingredients to be a contender in a wide-open playoff race, with Tipton and Smith manning key roles.
“Those two are going to complement what we think is a real nice senior group this year,” Gourley said. “Tre can play anywhere and Alex is can play inside and out; he's very versatile.”
Among the seniors the Vikings are counting on are the frontcourt twins, 6-foot-4 Cody and 6-5 Connor Billingsley, and third-year starter Josh Reynolds.
“We're looking for a leadership role in Josh,” Gourley said. “He can play different positions and he's a good penetrator.”
The section has a different look. Freeport is gone, and Burrell and Deer Lakes have moved down from Class AAA. Summit Academy also is a newcomer.
“I'm happy with the section we're in,” Gourley said. “I think it's a very equal section — anybody can beat anybody on any night. It should be pretty interesting.”
Adding depth to the Vikings this season are seniors Luke Burrell, Matt Hazi and Evan Davis. Juniors Dom Schrecengost and Mitchell Johnston also are expected to contribute.
Gourley will be assisted again by Eric Andring, former head coach Gary Davis, Roger Gourley — the coach's father — and Ted Faber.
But Matt Gourley feels one of the most important people coming into the program is Bruce Yard, who will handle the players in grades 3-6.
The Vikings will open the season Dec. 7 in the Leechburg Tip-off Tournament against Winchester-Thurston. They begin the section schedule Dec. 14 against visiting Summit Academy.
George Guido is a freelance writer.