- January 23, 2020
The first thing you notice about the Riverview High girls basketball team is the effort.
Against Newsome High on Dec. 8, the Rams ravaged the Wolves with smothering defense, especially early. Newsome was forced into double team after double team, which in turn led to bad passes and turnovers. When they were able to get a shot off (which was not often) it rarely found twine, usually clanking off the rim and into the hands of a Ram eager to start the rush up the court.
At the end of the first quarter, Newsome had five points. That will work.
Riverview went on to win 33-18, giving the team a 7-0 record as of Dec. 9. It's the longest undefeated start for the program since … well, since before MaxPreps kept consistent records, and the team's defensive intensity is a large reason why.
"Our motto this year is D.E.B.O.," coach Gerald Perry said. "That means 'defensive energy brings offense.'"
Perry, a second-year coach, said the biggest difference between this year and last (when the Rams went 12-14) has been focus. The players have the will to compete, Perry said, and they're smart. The Rams have also been fortunate to have players such as Caroline King return from injury. King, a junior, missed last season after breaking her back at the end of her freshman season. She leads the Rams with 13 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, according to MaxPreps.
But it is the D.E.B.O. that stands out when you watch the team. On one particular play, Rams junior guard Nicole Blanch — who is second on the team at 12.6 points a game — rushed a Wolves player after she had collected a rebound and tried to rip the ball out of her hands. It ended up being called a foul after the Wolves player spun to the floor, but if I were the Rams, I wouldn't mind that. It was exactly the type of play that winning teams try to make. Play physically and get in the other team's head. It worked.
Other players followed this example. Sophomore Sami Slusarek hit big shots in the first quarter to give the team offensive life; Senior Alexis Randall played stout defense in the post; Junior Myah Hagan was a steadying presence at the guard positions, keeping the team from getting too out-of-control.
The 33 points the Rams scored was by far their lowest output of the season — and they still won by double digits. Only one of their seven wins has been by less than 10 points, in fact, a 59-51 win against Keswick Christian on Nov. 23. They face perhaps their toughest test yet on Dec. 14: a road game against Lakewood Ranch High (6-0). Like the Rams, the Mustangs were hampered by injuries last season and appear to be much improved.
The two teams are the favorites in their district, and this contest should serve as a "measuring stick" game for both teams. I can't wait to see what happens.