Feb 26, 2012 - Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterIt took extra time, but the Riverton Wolverines basketball team finished the regular season in strong style with a physical 52-46 overtime win over the Evanston Red Devils Saturday afternoon in Wolverine Gym.
It was the only conference loss of the season for Evanston (20-3, 9-1 Class 4-A West).
The win for Riverton (17-6, 6-4 Class 4-A West) places the Wolverines as the third seed for the class 4-A West regional basketball tournament that beings Thursday in Wolverine Gym.
Riverton will play Rock Springs, the sixth seed, in its first-round game while Kelly Walsh, the fourth seed, will play Green River, the fifth seed.
Evanston and Natrona will enter the tournament as the top seeds, and both have earned an automatic berth to the state tournament beginning March 8 in Casper.
For Riverton, it will all come down to a must-win game Thursday against the Tigers in order to advance to state tournament play.
"As nice as this win is, we have to go home and get ready for Rock Springs. Hopefully we'll be ready to play. Until these kids can win a game (at regionals), I don't think anybody can take anything for granted. It worries me," Riverton head coach Dick Quayle said.
As is their unfortunate custom, the Wolverines fell behind early in Saturday's game. Riverton was down by five twice until buckets from Jordan Belville and Xavier Webb, both juniors, got Riverton to within one 13-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Riverton got its first lead at 15-12 when Webb hit a fall-away 3-point shot from the right elbow, but Evanston answered with two big threes of its own, both from Tyler Chandler.
Riverton was down by one at halftime 23-22 and, just like the first time the two teams played in Evanston, the game was a physical, seesaw battle in the second half.
The teams traded leads five times and were tied at 24-24, 30-30 and 36-36 when Kole Stewart's big 3-point shot followed by another Stewart bucket gave Riverton a five-point lead and momentum at 41-36 with four minutes to play.
But just like their tendency to start slow, the Wolverines also have had trouble putting teams away down the stretch at the free-throw line. Riverton missed five free throws in the final three minutes that would have iced the game and was just 11-20 from the stripe overall.
"At this time of the year, it is crucial that we shoot free throws well, and we didn't today," Quayle said.
Coley Nichols made a huge defensive play with 1:42 remaining when Evanston tried to lob the ball inside to Chandler, who would have had an easy bucket.
Nicholls tipped the ball away, and Riverton was still up by two.
After Webb finally made one of two free throws, the Red Devils' Kade Lym drained a big three of his own to tie the score at 45-45 with 18.8 seconds on the clock.
Kade Salisbury walked the ball up the court and Riverton called a timeout with 9.7 left to set up a final play. After the huddle, Seth Quayle fed a beautiful pass in traffic to Spenser Yowell, but the tall senior couldn't hang on, and the scorekeeper put 4:00 on the clock for overtime.
In the extra period, Yowell's bucket and two Webb free throws gave Riverton the lead for good, but a spectacular diving save by Webb in front of Evanston's Rocco O'Neil, who was watching the ball roll out of bounds, jazzed the big crowd watching the end of the game before the trophy games of the Class 2-A West regional tournament that followed later Saturday in Wolverine Gym.
The Wolverines gave up just one point in the overtime period.
"I thought we played very well defensively today overall. The kids competed hard," Quayle said.
Webb led Riverton scores with 14.
"We didn't do a very good job blocking out rebounding. They did a really nice job of getting to the boards. That was the difference in the game," Evanston head coach Bubba O'Neill said.
Guard Salisbury and Yowell led Riverton with eight rebounds each.
"This group of kids does not like to lose. Riverton did a better job of getting it done. We won't have to play Riverton on their home floor until the championship game (of the regional tournament) and that is a big deal," O'Neill said.
Evanston 13 10 7 15 1 (OT) -- 46
Riverton 12 10 10 13 7 (OT) -- 52
Evanston (46) -- Will Barker 0 1-2 Tyler Seimers 0 0-0 0, Breton VonSyoc 0 0-0 0, Alek Johnson 0 0-0 0, Nathan Chandler 0 0-0 0, Kade Lym 1 1-2 3, Hyrum Peterson 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 (6) 8-12 46.
Riverton (52) -- Tyler Graham 0 0-0 0, Donaldo Holguin 0 0-0 0, Kole Stewart 2 (1) 1-2 8, Xavier Webb 1 (3) 3-6 14, Spenser Yowell 3 (1) 0-0 9, Kade Salisbury 1 4-6 6, Gard Evans 1 0-0 2, Coley Nicholls 0 1-4 1, Jordan Belville 4 0-0 8, Seth Quayle 1 2-2 4. Totals 13 (5) 11-20 52.
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