It’s a sour ending to a sweet season

Photo by Larry Caruso

By HANK MINCKIEWICZ

If there is a moral to the story of the Riverview girls basketball team’s 2021 season, it is: Life is not fair.

This year, the Pirates were, in a word, great. 

Riveview posted a 15-2 record, the Bucs won their first Huron League championship in 26 years, they led the state in three-point shots made per game (7.9) and they won their third straight Division 1 district title, crushing previously unbeaten Downriver League champion Trenton 58-28.

But no one connected with the Riverview program is in a celebratory mood these days.

Soon after thoroughly beating Trenton, it was discovered that a Trojan who had played in the game tested positive for COVID-19.

And with that news, the Riverview team was placed in quarantine and the season brought to a close.

“It’s hard,” admitted Riverview coach Rob Sauter, who had to confirm the cancellation with his team on a Zoom call just hours before the teams scheduled regional semifinal game against Bedford. “It’s not fair, but, really, there is nothing anyone could have done.”

The cancellation was made even tougher by the fact that Riverview matched up very well against the other three teams in the district – Bedford, Dearborn and Dearborn Fordson – and was a clear favorite to win, which would have sent the team into the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history.

Instead, the Pirates have to console themselves with a great regular season, a fantastic district tournament and the highest winning percentage of any girls basketball team in school history.

The final on-court memory of the 2021 season will be a sweet one.

Trenton came into the district final as the two-time defending Downriver League champion and they were unbeaten in 15 games this season.

But the Bucs, led by their swarming defense, took the Trojans apart.

Trenton was outscored in every period and did not reach double digits in scoring until midway through the third quarter.

It was the 10th time in 17 games this season and Riverview held an opponent to 30 or fewer points.

“Defensively, we did what we do,” said Sauter. “We just clamped down on them.”

Kylie Skidmore and Elyssa Kincaid each had five steals and Maelyn Sorenson had four as the Pirates hounded the Downriver League champs from the start of the game until the finish.

Sauter said his team was a little off offensively, but he chalked that up to district-championship game jitters.

“We didn’t shoot well at the start of the district final against Rouge last either,” he recalled.

But the Bucs shot well enough, scoring 11 points in the first quarter, 19 in the second, 16 in the third and 12 in the fourth.

Sophomore Kincaid led the way with a game-high 19 points. Fellow sophomore Cady Kaminske three three-point baskets and nine points, Rayah Kolbusz had six points and Skidmore and Paige Beaudry added five each.

After a first-round bye, Riverview opened the district tournament with a dominant 67-13 win over Taylor. It was the sixth time this season and Riverview held an opponent under 20 points.

This game was out of control from the beginning as Riverview led 23-3 after one period and 28-7 at halftime.

“We played very well offensively against Taylor,” said Sauter.

“It’s really fun to watch our team play because they play so hard every game,” he said.

Between them, Kolbusz (four three-pointers), Kaminske, Skidmore and Beaudry had 10 three-point baskets against Taylor.

Skidmore led the team in scoring with 17 points, Kaminske had 14 and Kolbusz 13.

Defensively, Riverview had 21 steals against the Griffins, with Kincaid collecting eight of them.

Before the start of the tournament, Riverview essentially wrapped up the Huron league title with a 43-40 win over eventual Huron League runner-up Flat Rock on March 8.

Riverview finished the league season with a 13-1 record and Flat Rock was 12-2. The Bucs beat the Rams both times they played in 2021, each time by three points.

The second meeting was close all the way, but Riverview pulled away with a 10-6 scoring edge in the final eight minutes of play.

It was a balanced offensive attack that got the job done for the Bucs.

Skidmore had 15 points and Kolbusz and Kincaid each added 10. Kaminske had five points and Sorenson three. 

After beating the Rams for the second time this year, Riverview still had three more league games where they easily handled Carleton Airport, Monroe St, Mary Catholic Central and Grosse Ile, winning those three games by a combined score of 157-74.

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