Raider boys hoops run toward playoffs
Eagle Staff Writer
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January 10, 2018

JACKSON TWP — After a three-year hiatus, the pieces needed to return to the WPIAL playoffs seem to be in place for Seneca Valley’s boys basketball team.

Entering Tuesday night’s section clash with Pine-Richland, the Raiders sported an overall record of 8-2 and 2-1 in section play.

“We have played well at certain points and other times, we haven’t,” said SV coach Victor Giannotta. “We need to become more consistent and are working toward that.”

The team’s top players have emerged from different circumstances to give the Raiders a potent starting five.

Senior swingman Chris Hart (11.8 ppg) and junior forward Marcus Might (11.3 ppg, 8.5 rebounds) are the two players who started on last year’s team.

Seniors Dalton Peffer and Jake Bunofsky have cracked the starting lineup as a small forward and point guard, respectively.

And then there is senior guard David Ritchie, who was forced to sit out last season after transferring from Eden Christian. He was able to take part in practices as a junior, but not being on the court for games left a lasting impression.

“I love basketball and after what happened last year, it made me appreciate the game even more,” Ritchie said. “I now play every game with a chip on my shoulder. Getting back out there this year, it’s a great feeling. My comfort level comes from being on the court.”

Ritchie, averaging a team-high 16.5 points per game, is viewed as one of the guys as opposed to an outsider, according to Hart.

“Being able to practice with him last year, he grew with us,” he said.

Hart endured his own form of adversity, tearing ligaments in his right ankle during the offseason and missing most of his AAU season over the summer. He has returned, though, to help the Raiders make marked improvement from last year’s squad that went 5-7 in section play.

“I think our biggest improvement has been in transition, rebounding and passing ahead,” Hart said. “We’re playing well, but haven’t yet reached our best.”

Having a reliable point guard is the first step in helping the Raiders realize their full potential. Though in his first season as a starter, Bunofsky is providing SV with solid play at the position.

“He understands that for him, scoring is not as important as getting others involved in the offense,” said Giannotta. “He’s done a terrific job of accepting that role and he plays fantastic defense.”

Bunofsky saw limited time at point guard while backing up the graduated Payton Skalos last season.

“Even playing football with him, he showed me how to be a leader,” Bunofsky said of Skalos. “He had poise and always handled things well.”

Sophomore forward Gabe Lawson has consistently been the team’s sixth man and sophomore guard Luke Rupert has seen decent playing time off the bench.

“Some of the younger guys have to step up to fill out our 8-9 man rotation,” said Giannotta, who is pleased with his team’s overall record, but knows the games that will determine whether or not the Raiders make the postseason still need to be played.

“We will find out a lot this week (Tuesday vs. Pine-Richland, Friday vs. North Allegheny),” he said. “Section and non-section games are two different animals.”

“We’re still figuring things out,” said Bunofsky. “This is the first time that all five of us are playing together, but we have a good distribution of talent. It will take a while longer, but we’re getting there.”