Coming off one of its best season's in recent memory, the River boys' basketball team will be in a rebuilding mode this year.
The Pilots navigated their way to the Division IV regional semifinals last year before being ousted by Youngstown Christian, 60-49, at the historic Memorial Fieldhouse in Canton.
The Monroe Countians led early in the third quarter, but the tall and talented Eagles went on a 16-3 run and were never threatened after that in rolling to the 11-point victory.
T-L Photo/KIM NORTH
PICTURED IS the 2013-14 River boys basketball team. Front row, from left, are assistant coach Scott Piatt, Jared Ramsier, Parkers Caretti, Aaron Yost, Brandon Smith, Cole Isaly and Wes Smith. Back row, from left, are assistant coach Gard Curtis, Joe Flannery, Jarrett Armann, Blaze Amos, Eric Dierkes, Ryan Indermuhle and head coach Mark Romick. Not pictured is Matt Gauding.
Not only did River end its season at 19-7, but it lost its top seven players to graduation, including Brett Price, Jordan Indermuhle, Matt Marconi, Cody Caldwell, Kam Brown, Chad Isaly and Evan Eggleston. Price is continuing is academic and athletic careers at Marietta College.
The 6-2 senior guard had a huge season. He averaged 19.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and was second on the team in assists with 4.1 a game. For good measure, he averaged 2.1 steals.
He had huge games in the district final when River knocked off two-time defending state champion Hiland and also against Magnolia in two of the their regular-season meetings.
For his fine season, Price was named first-team all-Eastern District, third-team all-Ohio, all-OVAC, all-PVC and will take part in the OVAC and Battle Against Cystic Fibrosis All-Star Games.
"Each year everybody gets an opportunity," veteran River head coach Mark Romick said. "When last season ended we told the underclassmen that it was their time to step up. It's their opportunity now.
"They've had since that night to go out and work on their games and get better," Romick continued. "Now this year everyone has a shot because of what we lost in graduation. We're going to be green and I know that nobody thinks we're going to be any good. We're not expected to be, but you can either chase the bullseye or wear it. The last couple of years we wore it, now we're going to be chasing it. A lot of times when you're chasing it (the bullseye), it's a lot easier to sneak up on teams."
The only player with any varsity experience is also the lone senior on the squad, that being 6-1 guard Eric Dierkes.
"Eric will be counted upon for leadership, being the only senior," Romick stressed. "But he's a good leader and a good floor general. He knows the game really well and he's a great overall kid.
"He's also going to be counted on early in the year to do a lot of other things until the younger kids get their feet wet and see what's going on," Romick added.
"Our junior and sophomore classes have a lot of talented kids," he continued. "They are going to get their chances to play, but when you get to the varsity level, the best kids play. You prove who's best in practice, and our practices have been very competitive.
"I think we have a lot of kids who can step in and play, but until someone sorts themselves out and steps up above the rest, we could play anywhere from nine to 11 kids," he said.
Five juniors dot the Pilots roster. They are 6-1 forward Ryan Indermuhle, 6-2 guard Jared Ramsier, 6-3 center Matt Gauding, 5-8 guard Cole Isaly and 5-10 forward Aaron Yost.
"The Indermuhle and Ramsier kids had older brothers who came through our program, so they've been around it for a while," Romick explained. "They kind of know the ropes.
"Cole Isaly is a pretty decent shooter from the outside," he continued. "The Gauding kid is about 200 pounds, so he'll be strong on the boards."
River's sophomore class has some height in 6-2 forwards Jarrett Armann and Joey Flannery, and 6-5 center Blaze Amos. The other 10th grader is 5-8 Brandon Smith.
"All four of those kids will have an opportunity to show what they can do early on," Romick predicted. "They've all got some talent."
Rounding out the varsity roster is 5-8 freshman Parker Caretti, whose older sister - Jensen - is a standout for the Lady Pilots.
"Parker's going to be in the mix at point guard," Romick noted. "He is a very good ballhandler."
With only the one player with limited varsity experience back, Romick knows the early portion of the season will be a work in progress.
"I'm sure we're going to enjoy some highs, as well as enduring some lows throughout the course of the season," he said. "You've got to be able to adjust as the season goes along. When you've got a bunch of 15-and-16 year olds out there on a nightly basis, they're not going to be consistent every night."
With the talent the Pilots had last season, they beefed their schedule up a little. However, Romick said this year's, while toned down a little, still contains some of the local rivals, as well as a couple of tournament appearances.
"The PVC is going to be extremely strong again this season," he said. "You've got Fort Frye, Buckeye Trail, Monroe Central, Caldwell and Shenandoah who can light it up on any given night. Then we've got our rivalries with Magnolia, Shadyside and Bridgeport.
"I truly think that our schedule last season prepared us for the tournament run we enjoyed," he continued. "We got better with each game and night-in and night-out it was a war, but it made us better for the postseason."
The Pilots will also compete in the New Martinsville Rotary Classic, as well as play Federal Hocking in a Marietta Tournament.
Romick took time out to talk about what last season's senior class meant to the program.
"Kids like that only come around once in a lifetime as a group," he recalled. "The biggest thing is that I think we have some kids coming that are very similar to that class. We've got some really good kids coming up."
The JV roster will include sophomores: 6-1 guard Ben Riley and 5-10 guards C.J. Honeycutt and Michael Dierkes, while the freshmen are: 5-8 guards Isaac Curtis and Jordan Doty, 5-8 forward Chase Wichtermann, 5-6 guard Noah Ramsey, 5-11 forward Wyatt Reynolds, 6-1 center Mason Ladyga, and 5-7 guards Michael Collins and Trey Isaly.
Romick is assisted by veteran staff members Gard Curtis and Kris Pfalzgraf, along with Scott Piatt.