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Riverview High girls basketball eyes the postseason

The Rams are 15-2 as of Jan. 16, but Head Coach Gerald Perry wants his team to keep improving.

Junior Kyrsten Montas and freshman Ava Nono embrace Riverview High girls basketball's "Defensive energy brings offense" philosophy.
Junior Kyrsten Montas and freshman Ava Nono embrace Riverview High girls basketball's "Defensive energy brings offense" philosophy.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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Under Head Coach Gerald Perry, the Riverview High girls basketball teams have had a bad string of luck in the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 7A regional playoffs, at least in terms of matchups. 

Last year, the Rams lost 63-39 to Winter Haven High, who eventually reached the state championship game, losing 47-43 to Dr. Phillips High. 

The year before, an 88-53 loss to Dr. Phillips put a cap on the team's 20-2 season; Dr. Phillips would win the state championship 47-45 over Miami High. 

Three years ago, the Rams lost 52-26 to Plant High in the regional tournament. Plant, too, would eventually win a state championship, 52-40 over Miami High. It was another 20-2 season that went for nought. 

Perry is not a fan of that pattern. He wants to be the program that beats another strong program in regionals, then goes all the way. It is why he's learned to tell his team to treat the regular season like a warm-up. 

Riverview Head Coach Gerald Perry wants his team to advance past the regional round of the postseason.
File photo

The 2023-2024 Rams are 15-2 as of Jan. 16, primed for another shot at the top programs in regionals — if the team gets there, Perry said with caution. He does not want the team to get ahead of itself. But the pieces are there for this to potentially be the year it happens, he said. 

Riverview is led in scoring by senior Susan Lowther, the school's star three-sport athlete who has signed with the University of Clemson for lacrosse and earned a silver medal in the discus (41.86 meters) at last year's track and field state championships. 

Lowther is averaging 14.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, but the Rams have several players they feel comfortable asking to win a tight game with one final shot. Junior Ava Sims (10.7 ppg) and sophomore Kennedy Guy (12.2 ppg) have both hit buzzer-beaters this season, against Port Charlotte High on Dec. 1 and Sarasota High on Dec. 12. 

"Everybody on the roster brings something to the table," Perry said. 

Junior Kyrsten Montas, Perry said as an example, provides defensive length (3.3 steals per game) and a good sense of the floor, along with 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. She's also a team captain, always bringing up her teammates if they're down, Perry said. Freshman point guard Ava Noto provides energy, he said, and a lot of talent to be developed. Noto is averaging 8.4 points per game. 

Basketball fans tend to focus on offensive stats, but Perry remains convinced that good defense is the key to winning games, especially in the postseason. It is why he had his favorite motto — "Defensive energy brings offense," or DEBO — painted on the team's locker room wall. 

Thus far, his team has embraced that philosophy. Through 17 games, Riverview is allowing just 41 points per game. Take away the team's two losses, in which they allowed 81 and 78 points, and that average falls to 36.1 points per game. 

Still, Perry is not satisfied. The teams Riverview could potentially see in the regional tournament play a different style of basketball than teams in the Sarasota area play, he said. They are more athletic and take advantage of it, getting up and down the floor in a hurry. It can overwhelm lesser teams, Perry said. The Rams can't afford to feel that way. So for the rest of the regular season, Perry said, his team will be getting ready for that moment.

Perry wants them jumping every passing lane they can, getting ahead in transition, and putting points on the board early to avoid playing catch-up. He wants tenacity, he said. 

"We need to get over that hump," Perry said. 

They players are buying into the system. 

Montas said the team has had great chemistry all year, carrying over from last season and the AAU season. On Jan. 15, the Rams got together at Gecko's Grill & Pub for a team meal, one where many laughs were had, Montas said. Perry has created an environment that encourages players to be around each other all the time, not just at practice or at games. 

Nono said she did not know quite what to expect when she entered the program this season, but quickly came to appreciate the way the team handles business. 

The players support each other, she said. They give each other advice and encouragement in equal measure, and they know that everything said is meant to make the team better, not to put anyone down. In that way, Perry said, the team is like a family — not in the cliche sports way most people use the team, but like a real family. 

Riverview will have its next big test Jan. 22 when it hosts Cardinal Mooney High (12-6) at 7 p.m. Mooney is ranked as the No. 2 team in Class 3A (No. 16 overall) and has reached the class Final Four three seasons in a row. The Rams are ranked No. 5 in Class 7A (No. 28 overall).



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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