Kierra Messerich

Easton Valley’s Kierra Messerich dives for a ball during the 2018-2019 season.

With a lot of experience coming back and new eyes at the head of the program, Easton Valley is looking to be one of the top Tri-Rivers Conference contenders this season.

Chad Gruver took over the head coach position for the River Hawks this year. He’s been coaching junior high basketball for quite some time and jumped at the chance to take over the high school program.

“Any coach there’s going to be a different philosophy,” Gruver said. “My philosophy is that we’re here to win games and I’m going to put the best players on the floor in order to do that.”

The River Hawks certainly had a respectable season last year, finishing 15-7 overall but bowing out prematurely in the postseason.

They lost just one senior last year. However, that one senior was Sadie Zaruba. Zaruba scored a third of the points for the River Hawks, finishing with 390 points, almost 18 a game.

“I made it clear to Sarah [Driscoll], Sydney [Stoll] and Kierra [Messerich] that someone needs to step up,” Gruver said. “We worked on the gun this summer but we need to bring that up still. We want to work on balanced scoring and not rely so heavily on one person.”

Those three guards averaged between 5-8 points a game, offering more on defense than anything else with speedy athleticism. They did have potential, especially shooting-wise.

He expected to see those three, along with other guards like Sdyney McNeil, Renee Hartung and Paige Thines work for spots that are available.

“We are pretty guard heavy so it’s going to be competitive this year,” Gruver said.

“That can change from week to week. Some can step up, some can get comfortable and I expect it to stay comfortable from week to week.”

The top returner is 6-01 forward RaeAnn Carlson, who averaged almost 10 points a contest last season. The lefty was also one of the leading rebounders and will be a huge part of both aspects of the game.

“RaeAnn is definitely our centerpiece,” Gruver said. “We’re going to work the ball in to her as much as we can and we’re going to demand a lot from her down low.”

Liviah Johnson joins her down low, also offering rebounding power.

With the returners and experience the Easton Valley squad has this year, they fully expect to compete for a Tri-Rivers Conference title.

Their first game was one of their toughest foes in state-qualifier Marquette Catholic. The lost by ten, but held the Mohawks to just 43 points, showing promise for games to come.

“I think we can play with anyone,” Gruver said. “We just need to get some more consistency and that starts in practice and then translates into games.”