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Ryan tops Ocean City in Jersey Shore tourney

WILDWOOD, N.J. - Note to Archbishop Ryan High's basketball opponents: If you ever want to shock Christian Rivera, send someone shorter than 6-2 to the center jump circle.

WILDWOOD, N.J. - Note to Archbishop Ryan High's basketball opponents: If you ever want to shock Christian Rivera, send someone shorter than 6-2 to the center jump circle.

As near as Rivera can remember, he has never looked down at the guy across from him.

"Sure, I wish I was 4 inches taller," he said. "But I'm not, and I do the best with what I've got. You have to work harder and box out and make sure you're in the right positions."

Thursday, Ryan found itself at 7-0 and meeting Ocean City in the championship game of the Bill Osborn Memorial Bracket, played at the Wildwood Convention Center as part of the Boardwalk Basketball Classic.

Win No. 8 came in rather easy fashion. Shooting 5-for-7 from the floor, with one trey among those buckets, Rivera scored 11 points as Ryan coasted, 52-33.

Fans of fancy moves left disappointed. The 180-pound Rivera, who's blessed with decent feet, merely offered the tight flip shot here, the quick, one-dribble move there.

"I don't try to do too much out there. Just the things I can," Rivera said. "I'm not a good athlete. Nobody on our team is, really. Well, not like the guys you see on Neumann-Goretti or some of those other teams. But we're coached well and do what we're told, and that helps us get these wins."

Ryan's coach is Bernie Rogers, a former star guard for the Raiders, and his father, also named Bernie, happens to own a house in nearby Wildwood Crest.

Guess where everyone stayed Wednesday night, after the Raiders captured their first-round game in the tourney?

Wow. An entire team in one house? How many floors? Three? Four? Numerous enclosed porches? Heated, at that?

Hardly. It's a two-floor job.

"It was no problem," Rivera said. "We had a great time. They decided who slept where by how early you got there. Some guys got beds. I got a couch. The rest of the guys slept on the floor."

Back in Philly, maybe sleepovers should become a staple at someone's/anyone's house. The Raiders had no trouble imposing their will against 4-0 O.C., especially when it came to long-distance shooting.

Though people tend to think of Ryan's Princeton offense as something meant only to produce backdoor layups, Rogers has no problem with sensible treys. The Raiders went 11-for-19 beyond the arc and - get this - the deep subs were perfect at 3-for-3, thanks to Shane Kelley (two) and Tim Raucheissen.

Starter Gage Galeone was the lone Raider with two treys, but Brian Okolo (10 points), Kyle Slawter, Rivera (starters), Brendan Horan, Sam DuMond and Shawn Miller (early subs) drained one apiece.

Rivera, who lives close to Ryan, packed his points into the first and third quarters. A statsfest, this wasn't, but Slawter added four assists and three steals, and star football lineman Chris McMonagle, off the bench, claimed five first-half rebounds.

In playground ball, Rivera sometimes throws himself a changeup by trying to play guard. But even in youth leagues, he served as a power forward, and the next time he complains about his lot in basketball life will be the first.

"For the guys we have, we run the perfect offense," Rivera said. "We all accept our roles and work great together as a team.

"I like to have fun out there. I smile a lot, and I never look really serious."

He would carry that same approach into a center jump against someone shorter.

"I'd jump first," Christian Rivera said. "To make sure to get the ball."

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