Mar 10, 2014 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterPlaying in the Class 4-A tournament for the first time in 11 years, Riverton opens Thursday against Sheridan.
The Riverton Lady Wolverines mounted a great comeback Saturday morning and turned a 14-point third-quarter deficit into a 56-48 win over Casper Kelly Walsh and a third-place finish at the Class 4-A West girls regional basketball tournament at Kelly Walsh High School.
The win followed Riverton's domination of Evanston on Thursday, a win which guaranteed the Lady Wolverines their first state tournament appearance since 2003.
Riverton will open the state tournament at 9 a.m. Thursday against Sheridan at the Casper Events Center.
"You guys, pat yourselves in the back," a near voiceless Riverton head coach Ron Porter told his team after Saturday's win.
Riverton lost Friday night to Casper Natrona in the regional semifinal to set up Saturday's third-place showdown.
With more Riverton boosters in the one-sided bleacher setup than home-standing KW fans, it was freshman Deni Lou Nichols, playing with a sore ankle, who started Riverton's comeback Saturday. Her bucket, followed by huge 3-point shots from Maci Evans, Riverton's sole senior, and junior Savannah Salisbury quickly cut the Lady Trojans' lead from 14 points to six in just 90 seconds.
But Riverton's run seemed to run into a roadblock when the season's leading scorer, Kiley Ridgway, suffered her fifth foul with 0:44 remaining in the third quarter.
"That was a big risk (to leave Ridgway in). I thought at that point we had to have her in the game to make that initial comeback," Porter said.
With Ridgway gone, the Lady Wolverines looked to junior forward Jensyn Pettit to handle their inside game, and she delivered.
Pettit hit three of four free throws to finish the quarter, but Riverton was still down by five at 38-33.
"We've weathered the storm," KW head coach Sara Twomi told her team during the break.
Riverton junior guard Camey Fegler drove to the hoop as the final quarter started. Her floater found the bottom of the net, as did her and-one free throw. Nicholls forced KW's third straight turnover, and her basket with 5:33 remaining gave Riverton its first lead since early in the first quarter.
"We knew we would have to win at the defensive end. Deni Lou found a calmness in the second half. She gutted it out," Porter said.
KW grabbed the lead back at 42-41 but Evans put Riverton back in front for good with a clutch long-distance 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key.
With her team up by one with 3:30 remaining, it was Pettit who asserted herself for Riverton with a blocked shot, made free throw, another blocked shot, an offensive rebound, a defensive rebound and save, and yet another free throw.
"I felt like I had to step up. The whole team had to step up, and the energy from the crowd really helped us. As soon as I got going, it started flowing and clicking," Pettit said.
The Wolverines kept up the pressure with Fegler, who led all scorers with 15, and Salisbury, who added 13, scoring down the stretch and Pettit exerting dominance on the defensive end.
"Jensyn was just outstanding. I also thought Camey and Savannah lifted us up, and Maci played as composed as she has this season. This was a team win and a reflection of the last three years of the kids' work, even the ones who have graduated. They all were a big part of this. I couldn't be prouder of this bunch of kids. Every single one of our kids stepped up," Porter said.
Tough game Friday
The Lady Wolverines found themselves in the third place game after losing to tournament champion Casper Natrona 66-22 Friday. Natrona, a perfect 10-0 in regular-season league play, defeated Rock Springs 63-32 Saturday afternoon to win the Class 4-A West title.
Riverton 56, Kelly Walsh 48
Riverton 6 7 20 23 -- 56
Kelly Walsh 11 9 18 10 -- 48
Riverton (56) -- Savannah Salisbury 4 (1) 2-4 13, Megan Doyle 0 0-0 0, Jensyn Pettit 1 5-8 7, Maci Evans 0 (2) 0-0 6, Kiley Ridgway 3 1-2 7, Camey Fegler 4 7-10 15, Deni Lou Nicholls 2 4-9 8, Kenisha Muehler 0 0-0 0, Jacee Shultz 0 0-0 0, Hannah Hauck 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 (3) 19-33 56.
Kelly Walsh (48) -- Hoff 1 5-10 7, R. Franke 3 (1) 3-4 12, K. Franke 1 2-2 4, Erdahl 1 (1) 3-4 8, Earl 1 0-0 2, Lami 3 3-6 9, Nganga 2 2-4 6. Totals 12 (2) 18-30 48.
Natrona County 66, Riverton 22
Natrona 19 16 13 18 -- 66
Riverton 03 03 06 10 -- 22
Natrona (66) -- Kaylee Johnson 8 6-10 22, Emily Robertson 4 2-4 10, Sarah Jones 3 0-0 6, Ashton Hallsted 3 0-1 6, Brittney Eklund 1 (1) 0-0 5, Lauren Taubert 1 3-4 5, Abby Ellbogen 0 (1) 0-0 3, Gabby Johnson 1 1-6 3, Lulu Rochelle 1 0-0 2, Jena Milliken 1 0-0 2.
Riverton (22) -- Kiley Ridgway 2 3-5 7, Jensyn Pettit 2 2-4 6, Savannah Salisbury 2 0-0 4, Maci Evans 0 (1) 0-1 3, Deni Lou Nicholls 1 1-3 3, Camey Fegler 0 1-2 1.
Class 4-A West girls results
Thursday, March 6
No. 4 Riverton 42, No. 5 Evanston 22
No. 3 Kelly Walsh 37, No. 6 Green River 34
Friday, March 7
No. 2 Rock Springs 49 Kelly Walsh 43
No. 1 Natrona 66 Riverton 22
Saturday, March 8
Riverton 56 Kelly Walsh 48, third Place
Natrona 63, Rock Springs 32, Championship
Class 4-A girls state tournament pairings
Thursday, March 13
(Games played at Casper College)
(No. 3W) Riverton vs. (No. 2E) Sheridan 9 a.m.
(No. 4E) Central vs. (No. 1W) Natrona 10:30 a.m.
(No. 3E) East vs. (No. 2W) Rock Springs 4:30 p.m.
(No. 4W) Kelly Walsh vs. (No. 1E) Gillette 6 p.m.
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