July 2, 2016

Partly cloudy

River aims to build on recent success

Black River girls basketball coach Bill Roniger doesn’t wear a hard hat or steel-toed shoes, but he is definitely a man of construction.

In his fourth year, Roniger led the Pirates to nine wins — their most since 2001-02 — and the school’s first postseason victory in five seasons.

A little success like that has helped Black River slowly build up its program and create excitement.

The team created such a buzz that the Pirates will be fielding their first ever freshman squad and have also started squads at the fifth- and sixth-grade levels.

“That success builds, and that’s evident with us having a freshman team,” said Roniger, who is 21-43 at Black River. “The lower levels are growing and becoming active. We’re really pleased with that.

“Now we just have to build upon that success and just continue to work hard.”

One reason for that success is in the post. Namely, Chelsey Calhoun.

The senior forward busted onto the scene last winter after standout Megan Deidrick went down with a knee injury and averaged 12.1 points and 10.6 rebounds. She was one of just three Medina County players to average a double-double.

“At the start of last year, nobody heard of her, but she steadily improved,” Roniger said of the 5-foot-8 All-Gazetter.

Combine Calhoun’s efforts with fellow returnees Brittany Lutz (5-8, G, sr.) and Megan Keathly (5-1, G, sr.), and the Pirates could be poised to go to the next level. Lutz has the second-most points returning at 4.4.

“Those three define what our program will hopefully become,” Roniger said. “Take them coming through the program; they know what it’s about.”

Black River will also have added size with 6-0 Krystal Coffman, 5-7 Charleigh Carr and 5-7 Alicia Altenburger all seeing minutes.

With that increase in size, Roniger will tweak his pressure defense into more of a half-court concept, while offensively turning the old-fashioned pick and roll to attack.

Junior forward Emily Plank (5-9) and forward Cherie Shanko (5-6) round out Roniger’s eight-man rotation.

When it comes to the Patriot Athletic Conference, Roninger is more worried about finishing the foundation before hoisting up the walls.

“To me, it’s about Black River taking care of Black River,” he said. “We don’t want to be overlooked any more. I think everything will fall into place.”

About Liz Sheaffer