Riverview rallies past Freeport to win title
It wasn't a nice homecoming for Freeport coach Paul Sylba. The former Riverview student, athlete and coach brought his Yellowjackets to Oakmont on Friday night for the girls finals of the Riverview Holiday Tournament.
The Raiders took the momentum late in the third quarter and produced a 38-31 victory over Freeport.
“I still live in the community; it's nice to come back,” Sylba said. “I didn't coach any of these girls, but I saw some of them play in junior high, and it's nice to see how they've developed as players. This was a well-played game.”
Freeport standout Jessica Aulicino picked up her fourth foul midway through the third quarter and left the lineup. At about the same time, Riverview (6-3) erased a five-point Yellowjackets lead.
The Raiders outscored Freeport, 12-5, in the fourth quarter despite some foul trouble of their own.
“It really hurts when Jessica's out of the game,” Sylba said. “She's our catalyst. We had a little glitch there when she left the game. When she's off the floor, the leadership's hard to replace.”
Aulicino fouled out with 4:31 left in the game after scoring 16 points to lead Freeport (4-4).
Riverview had three players with four fouls, forcing coach Keith Stitt to go deeper into the bench than he had planned.
Hannah Larkin, a junior varsity player who wasn't listed in the game program, scored with six seconds left in the third quarter to tie the game at 26-all. Icelandic exchange student Isabella Gudmundsdottir played some quality minutes, and Leah Sero scored a basket 21 seconds into the fourth quarter to give Riverview the lead for good.
Stitt praised his team's defensive effort.
“I thought our defense really picked things up, holding a good team like Freeport to just 14 points in the second half,” Stitt said. “We played a lot of triangle-and-two with Renee Ault and Erin Lauff. They're our two best defenders.”
Riverview received a scare when Bree Patsey suffered an ankle injury with 2:38 left in the first half. She returned, however, in the third quarter and led the Raiders with 13 points.
Patsey missed much of last year with an ACL injury.
“I think she's getting more and more confident,” Stitt said of Patsey. “She was a little tentative at first. You can just see the elevation in her game each week.”
Freeport had a 17-14 lead at halftime.
Freeport had several superb defensive plays in the fourth quarter, including forcing a five-second call, but the Yellowjackets couldn't convert.
Ault was tournament MVP, while Lauff, Aulicino and Macy Smolic of Freeport made the all-tournament team.
George Guido is a freelance writer.