Riverview girls basketball team returns 5 starters
With a bevy of returning players to count on, the Riverview girls basketball team isn't shying away from lofty goals this season.
However, for the Raiders to meet those expectations, they need those players to stay on the court.
Riverview brings back five starters from a team that reached the WPIAL Class AA playoffs in 2013-14. But of the 18 players on the Raiders' roster, seven battled injuries during the early part of preseason practice.
“That (experience) alone should bode well for you,” Riverview coach Keith Stitt said. We've got to get healthy first. But I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”
Although a handful of the injured players returned soon after official practices began, Riverview may begin the season without senior guard/forward Bree Patsey (ankle) — a returning starter — and reserve junior forward Candice Ashbaugh (shoulder).
Dealing with some of those absences will be easier for Riverview because of the experience elsewhere on the roster.
Junior guard Sadie Buchser will anchor a starting lineup that also returns seniors Hannah Larkin and Leah Sero and junior Nicole Munion.
Larkin, Patsey and Sero were part of the 2011-12 Riverview team that reached the WPIAL Class A semifinals and have played within Stitt's system since the seventh grade.
“You don't have to spend a lot of time on the teaching part of it,” Stitt said. “You can start getting into the intricacies of the offenses and defenses and try to develop and devise some things that will play to their strengths.”
In her third season as a starter, Buchser is expected to again lead the Riverview offense. The junior guard averaged 14.5 points per game last season.
“The thing about Sadie is she's so unselfish with the ball,” Stitt said. “I harped on her all last year about shooting more, trying to get her to take more shots. She was scoring 15 points per game, but she was barely shooting 13 times per game. I'd like to see her get 15, maybe 20 shots a game, minimum, this year. You'd like to think if she's taking 20 shots, she should score 20 points.”
Buchser sat out Riverview's playoff loss to West Shamokin because of a suspension, but Stitt said he believed the experience would help her in the long run.
Along with Ashbaugh, junior guard Molly Kennedy is expected to add depth off the bench. Junior Nikki Polens also is battling an injury, but Stitt hopes to see her contribute to the backcourt depth as well.
A 5-foot-10 freshman, Ariel Rafferty, can play all five positions, Stitt said.
“Because of Candice and Bree being out right now, we'll be kind of forced to use her at the four and five spot for the most part,” he said. “Hopefully, once we get healthier, it will free her up to play a little more standard roles for us because she's a very talented kid.”
While Riverview lacks size, it boasts a wealth of athleticism, Stitt said — allowing the Raiders to potentially play at a fast pace on offense.
“I like to coach it, and the kids like to play it that way.” he said. “I'm fine with that.”
Traditionally a zone team, the Raiders could play more pressure or man-to-man on defense because of their athleticism. That also depends on health, Stitt said.
Riverview will open the season Dec. 5-6 at the Serra Catholic Tip-Off Tournament.
Although the Raiders will drop to Class A this season, the competition doesn't exactly get easier. The new Section 2-A includes defending WPIAL and state champion Vincentian Academy.
“We'll have our work cut out there, but I really like to think we can play with everybody else,” Stitt said. “We're going to give it our best shot, I know that.
“We start with the same goals every year. Number one is to be in the playoffs. When we get there, we focus on trying to do some damage in the playoffs and try to get a little better each day.”