Prose and Kohn: Riverview boys’ basketball has a bright future | sarasota


For a while, it looked like the boys’ basketball team at Riverview High was going to pull off a huge comeback.

The Rams (21-8) trailed Windermere High (21-6) by 11 points at halftime Tuesday night in a Class 7A regional semifinal. The Rams were the top seed and hosted the game, but in many ways Windermere was the favorite. No small reason for that was Wolverines junior Sean Stewart, a Duke commitment ranked the No. 28 player in his class by the 247Sports Composite.

Riverview hung with the Wolverines in the first quarter, even taking the lead in the end, but an 18-1 run from Windermere in the second quarter put the Rams in bad shape.

And yet, there was a moment. Riverview started playing better defense and taking better shots in the third quarter. A three-pointer from senior guard Pete Goldberg cut Windermere’s lead to five points, 43-38, in the third quarter. The packed crowd went crazy. A group of Riverview students even showed off the letters “RAMS” they had painted on their chests. The quarter ended with the Rams down eight, a comeback well within reach.

It wasn’t meant to be. Stewart took over in the fourth quarter, finishing with 18 points, and the Rams began to press, missing shots they normally do. The final score, 61-48, belies how close the game was when the Rams were playing their best.

“We just couldn’t get over the bump,” Rams coach Rudy Fraraccio said. “We only faced five or six guys and they emptied their tanks. I’m happy with our efforts. … It was a good season. But not a good second quarter.”

Primary hitter Jaron Glover led the Rams with 14 points. Freshman winger Jamier Jones had 11 points and Goldberg had 10 points.

The loss will be a heartbreaking one, but Rams fans have plenty to be excited about the program’s future. The team had nine new players this year, including world freshman Jones. They would always take a while to gel. They will lose heart and soul players such as Goldberg and forward Jackson Dawson – who, I must add, had a pretty impressive rebound off Stewart in the fourth quarter, snatching the ball from him – as well as Glover, who added athletics in the post this year and is heading to Michigan State for football. But being able to build around Jones and junior Jason Jackson means the Rams will continue to be competitive.

That’s no mean feat in the Rams’ home region, which is one of the toughest in Florida of any class. Outside of Windermere and the Rams, the area also includes Dr. Phillips High, which includes Kansas clerk Ernest Udeh Jr., and Olympia High, which includes uncommitted four-star Edgerrin “Jizzle” James Jr. is the son of Hall of Fame Indianapolis Colts running back Edgerrin James. You have my permission to feel ancient. I certainly do.) All that talent will make future seasons a dogfight after the playoffs. Fraraccio knows it. That’s why he’s proud his team have come this far, even though he feels they could have gone even further with some retrospective tweaks.

“We stumbled out of the gate, but we had some good experiences and brought another district championship to Riverview High,” Fraraccio said. “But I wish I had that one.”

Aside from the women’s basketball semifinals and individual wrestling championships, which will end next weekend, the winter sports season is now over. With this, high school sports fans can turn their attention to spring, which has already started with a bang.

Riverview fans unhappy with the end of the men’s basketball team can take solace in the school’s baseball team, which started its season Monday with an 8-2 win over Braden River High. Pip Smalley, one of the players I mentioned in my spring preview last week, has already started to prove me right. Smalley, a senior, went two-for-three with two triples and two RBIs in the victory. The Rams used five pitchers and four of them kept the Pirates scoreless, a good sign for their bullpen depth.

I also want to salute the Sarasota boys’ lacrosse team, who have won another game since my last column. The team actually came close to starting 3-0 but lost 11-8 to Northside Christian on February 19. Again, it’s a program that went 1-11 in 2021, it’s the first real season there is. The work head coach Christian Dombovari has done to make the Sailors competitive in such a short time is impressive.

Finally, I wanted to end on a quirk. It’s been a while since I’ve seen something like this. The Sarasota Christian baseball team started its season with a 23-2 win over Port Charlotte Community School on Tuesday. An impressive score all by itself. What if I told you that in that win, three Blazers pitchers combined for a no-hitter? Yes, despite giving up multiple runs, the Blazers didn’t allow PCCS to get a hit. Sarasota Christian pitchers Alexander Hefti, a sophomore, James Featherston, a freshman, and Randall Collins, a freshman, were responsible for the feat. They combined to walk five batters and somehow two of them scored without the help of a hit. I don’t want to dwell too much on this part because it takes away from the “no batter” part, but it’s just as interesting in its own way.

I don’t know if the fact that the game ended after four innings because of the mercy rule makes it all more or less unbelievable, but it does make it more unique. There’s also a lesson to be learned: whenever you attend a sporting event, you never know what you’re going to see.

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