The Riverside boys basketball season ended up short of making the state playoffs, but that didn’t mean head coach Andrew Bennie was unhappy with the overall effort of the Vikings.
“Overall our season wasn’t that bad,” Bennie said. “We had high expectations that we didn’t reach, but that’s going to be our motivation to work harder for next year, so we’ll come back a better team.”
They’ll have to be to contend for a state playoff berth as their primary competition isn’t going to change too much.
“Unfortunately, or fortunately, we play in a very tough league,” Bennie said. “We played six games against Mid Valley and Holy Cross, two of the top 10 Class AA teams in the state, and we were in each game. Of the nine games we lost, a handful could have gone either way.”
Among those losses was one against Lackawanna Trail, but the Vikings avenged that loss in the District 2 Class AA playoffs.
“We lost to Lackawanna Trail in a crossover game,” Bennie said. “We wanted to beat them, but it didn’t affect our league record. We got them in districts, and played better that time.”
Bennie was generally pleased with how his team played, but had to deal with rugged opposition.
“We lost to good teams; Mid Valley, Holy Cross and Old Forge [ all reached the state playoffs ] and that’s six of four nine losses,” Bennie said. “We played tough teams, and that’s the way things go.”
Still, the ninth-seeded Vikings entered the postseason confident and started strongly, getting the revenge win over Lackawanna Trail, 67-44, and then knocking off top-seeded Elk Lake, 63-50.
“Winning our first two district games, we had our eyes on playing for the district championship,” Bennie said.
But rivals Holy Cross, the fourth seed, and third-seeded Mid Valley got in the way, dispatching Riverside from the semifinals and consolation game, respectively.
“Against Holy Cross, we had a bad 16 minutes and 16 fantastic minutes, and if we could have put two good halves together, we could have won,” Bennie said. “Against Mid Valley, we had a 13-point lead in the third quarter and we let it get away from us. There’s nothing wrong with losing that third-place game. We put ourselves in position to win.”
The way the season ended will linger with those returning, and some starters from this year are expected to return for the Vikings.
“Will Davies stepped up as a sophomore and became a defensive stopper that we could put on the other team’s top player,” Bennie said. “ [ Randy ] Kincel did a great job for us scoring; we’re going to rely on him heavily next year.”
Bennie likes the depth of next year’s lineup.
“Mike Borowski is a long, athletic kid who disrupted offenses, Adam Leasure gave us some good time and Mike Spinelli played some point guard for us,” Bennie said. “We’re going to have guys back with experience and a good freshman class that finished second in our league.”
But it takes more than talent and good numbers to succeed.
“We’re going to have to work hard in the summer, and they did this year,” Bennie said. “It’s a group of guys who have played together their entire lives, and that helps. We know where we need to work and build from there.”
The Vikings will go into the offseason with the intention of working hard, knowing that all the sweat will make them better and hopefully spur them to reaching all their goals next season.