A new era of boys' basketball has begun at Riverside High School and is off to a pretty good start.
First-year coach Andrew Bennie takes over the reigns for longtime boys' basketball coach Mike Morgan. Thus far, Bennie has the Vikings on a three game winning streak after losing the first game of the season to Montrose by a score of 60-53.
Riverside won its first home game of the season against North Pocono by a score of 70-61. The win was the first won for coach Bennie.
"I feel very good," coach Bennie said of how he felt after getting his first win as Riverside's head coach. "I am very happy with the guys' effort tonight and all I can ask from them to play hard for 32 minutes, and finish strong. If we do that every night, only good things are going to happen."
Since their first win, the Vikings have won two more games. Riverside beat Tunkhannock buy a score of 73-66 and knocked off Nanticoke by a score of 60-49.
"If we play hard every single night we are going to be competitive on a nightly basis," said Bennie. "Our division is brutal, but I believe we can compete every singlenight. We have tough kids and they play their hearts out."
The strength of the Vikings team will be guard play. Riverside returns its two starting guards from last year in senior Jaron Vishnesky and junior Nico Munley.
Vishnesky is the Vikings' captain this season.
"He (Vishnesky) is our team captain and we lean on him to do a lot for us defensively and offensively," Bennie said. "If he does that we will be fine."
So far in the early season Vishnesky has delivered leading the Vikings in scoring in all three wins. Some of the other players the Vikings will be counting on are Randy Kincel, Nick Dranchak, Matt Donahue, Connor Mailen and Will Davies.
Bennie said he will have some of the same style as former coach Morgan. He said he wants Riverside to play fast at times, but remain in control, along with playing hard-nosed defense and being able to control the boards.
Bennie playing his high school basketball at Old Forge and played for current Blue Devils' coach Al Semenza. Bennie and Semenza said it will be fun to coach against one another and the first match-up for Riverside and Old Forge will be on Saturday, Jan. 5, at Riverside High School. The second match-up will be in Old Forge on Wednesday, Jan. 30.
"That will be fun; to go against a guy who I admire a lot will be very exciting," Bennie said. "I think we have similar ideas and similar coaching styles. I added some things coaching at Riverside the last two years. I picked up a few things and I hopefully that will help us."
As Riverside will be entering Lackawanna League Division III play after the holiday Bennie expects the division to be very difficult. He is expecting Holy Cross to be very solid with several returning players, Dunmore to be tough, Mid-Valley to be strong with some injured players coming back. Also Lakeland, who won Division II last year, will be in Division III this season should be a solid squad.
However Bennie said he expects the Vikings to be in every game and feels he has a group of tough players who will compete every night. Riverside will once again be the host team in the 26th annual Taylor Lions holiday basketball tournament. The Vikings will play their first game on Thursday Dec. 27 against MMI Prep, the first game of the night will at 6:30 p.m. as West Scranton takes on Lackawanna Trail.
The championship game and consolation game will be held Saturday, Dec. 29, starting at 6:30 p.m.