Springdale rallies in 4th to beat Riverview, clinch playoff spot
Springdale senior Mike Zolnierczyk didn’t want to see his final Dynamos home game end on a losing note.
Down by five to start the fourth quarter with a playoff berth on the line, Zolnierczyk scored two quick baskets and his teammates took it from there as the Dynamos overwhelmed Riverview in the final period to post a 55-48 victory.
Springdale (12-8, 8-6) outscored their cross-river rival 15-3 in the final stanza to earn the school’s 34th WPIAL playoff berth.
Riverview had just taken a 43-40 lead on a Noah Black 3-pointer. Twenty seconds later, Black was fouled behind the arc just before the third-quarter buzzer.
Black canned two of three to put the Raiders in front 45-40 before a near-sellout at Donald McGhee Fieldhouse. It appeared Riverview would knock Springdale out of the playoffs for the second time in three years on the final night of the section season.
“We had that feeling of two years ago, when they knocked us out of the playoffs in the final game,” Zolnierczyk said. “That one stung a little bit in the sophomore year. It was tough, but it motivated us seniors tonight not to let it happen again.”
Springdale first-year coach Aaron Epps wasn’t around for the 2017 finale and had no real change of strategy going into the fourth quarter.
“I just told my seniors during the timeout that this could be it. They were outhustling you on your floor,“ Epps said. “Either you guys step up, or you’re going home.”
Zolnierczyk stole the ball around midcourt and drove for a layup. Ben Myford the connected to bring the Dynamos deficit to 45-44. Zolnierczyk then scored a traditional three-point play on a basket and a foul shot to put Springdale in front for good.
The Raiders (7-13, 4-9) didn’t score in the fourth quarter until Jack Harden made a free throw with 22 seconds left in the game.
“I thought we did what we needed to do for three quarters,” Riverview coach Paul Sapotichne said. “We talked at halftime about coming out strong, and we did. We talked about the same thing coming out in the fourth quarter, but we didn’t score for the first seven minutes, and you can’t do that.”
The game was still up for grabs when Black scored, but the basket was waved off with an offensive foul at the 3:37 mark.
Sophomore Demitri Fritch had another solid game for the Dynamos with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Epps had to revamp his team when starters Roman Liberati and Logan Dexter went down with season-ending injuries.
“It’s what changed our season: how our role players (for) four games stepped up and played,” Epps said. “They’ve stepped up and given us a lot more contributions.”
Junior Thanny Black led Riverview with 18 points and nine rebounds. Riverview has won seven games this year after winning two last season.
The Raiders, who conclude the season with a make-up game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Winchester-Thurston, return five of their top seven players next season and could get help from the junior high ranks.
Springdale, meanwhile, will learn its playoff fate Tuesday night after a pairings meeting at the Green Tree DoubleTree Hotel.
George Guido is a freelance writer.