Mar 2, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterUPDATE Saturday, 4:45 p.m. Riverton falls to Evanston 47-41 in Class 4-A West championship game. Wolverines enter state as the second seed from the West, and will play Cheyenne Central on Thursday, March 8, in the first round of the Class 4-A state tournament in Casper. Game time at Casper College is 1:30 p.m.
UPDATE: Friday, 7:45 p.m. Riverton, with 25 points from Xavier Webb, advances to Saturday's championship game in the West 4-A regional tournament. The Wolverines dumped Casper Natrona 60-45 Friday evening. Evanston advanced to the championship game with a 53-47 win over Kelly Walsh. Game time Saturday is set for 2:30 p.m. in Wolverine Gym. Not since 1998 has a Riverton Wolverine boys basketball team beat Casper Natrona. Catch all of the details in Sunday's Ranger.
It's been awhile. But with a convincing 55-43 win over Rock Springs in the first round of the Class 4-A West regional basketball tournament, the Riverton Wolverines have accomplished what had eluded them since 2004 -- a berth in the Class 4-A high school state basketball tournament.
And, oh, by the way, the win also earns Riverton a shot at a bit of revenge in Friday's regional semifinal game against Casper Natrona, the only 4-A West conference team that the Wolverines have not beaten this season. Game time in Wolverine Gym is 5:30 p.m.
In the other West regional first-round game played Thursday, after scoring just two points in the first quarter, Casper Kelly Walsh rallied to end Green River's season 33-18 and earn a chance to play Evanston in Friday's other semifinal contest.
The Wolverines did two things Thursday that they have struggled with a bit during the season. The didn't fall behind early, and they made free throws down the stretch in crunch time.
"It felt good," Wolverine senior Donaldo Holguin said. Holguin had two huge 3-point shots, one in second quarter that put Riverton up by seven and another that pushed Riverton's lead to eight early in the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines led 22-14 at halftime, but Chase Riley, the Tigers' talented senior, by himself made it a game in the second half. Riley, the state's leading scorer and will play basketball for Casper College next year, drained a 3-point shot from the left corner that gave his team the lead at 23-22 with 5:04 left in the third. His second big three of the quarter put Rock Springs up 25-22, but a Seth Quayle jumper and Xavier Webb's layup after a beautiful halfcourt pass from Tyler Graham got Riverton to within one. Riley scored all 14 of the Tigers' third quarter points.
Rock Springs head coach Corey Sova said that, at halftime, the decision was made to see if Riely could get Rock Springs back into the game.
"We had to try something. Offensively, he is a tough match," Sova said.
As the fourth quarter started, it was Graham who was assigned to guard Riley, and the athletic senior proved to be Riverton's best defender against the Tiger scoring machine.
"I tried to stay in his back pocket and keep a hand in his face. I've been picking up my defense, and I think this was my best defensive game," Graham said.
Senior Gard Evans' long pass to Riverton's scoring leader Webb gave the junior only his second field goal of the game on a fast break, and Webb added one free throw to put the Wolverines up by eight with 3:00 remaining.
But Rock Springs wasn't done, and the Tigers climbed back to within three with just under 2:00 to play.
But Riverton stepped up. In fact, RHS banished the demon of not converting free throws late in games. Five Wolverines -- Webb, Yowell, Seth Quayle, Kade Salisbury and Jerel Kohler -- all made clutch free throws down the stretch to preserve a seat at the table in next week's state tournament.
Salisbury and Quayle each scored 11, and Webb added 10 to lead the Wolverines.
"Everyone. Everyone contributed tonight," head coach Dick Quayle said.
But Quayle added a word of caution to his team.
"If we are satisfied now, we won't win again," Quayle said.
Riverton will now try to get to Saturday's regional title game but must beat Natrona first.
"We have to contain (Cory) Peck. He's awfully quick, and he is awfully good," Quayle said.
In the Class 4-A East regional, first-day winners Cheyenne Central and Cheyenne East eliminated Laramie and Cheyenne South and will join Gillette and Sheridan as state tournament qualifiers.
Rock Springs 6 8 14 15 -- 43
Riverton 14 8 9 24 -- 55
Rock Springs (43) -- Tyler Legerski 0 (2) 0-0 6, Zach Legerski 1 4-7 6, Jordon Rood 1 0-2 2, Chase Riley 5 (3) 2-4 21, Brent Rhodes 3 0-1 6, Daulton Grube 0 0-0 0, Todd Gray 0 0-0 0, Braxton Rosette 1 0-0 2. Totals 11 (5) 6-14 43.
Riverton (55) -- Tyler Graham 1 0-0 2, Donaldo Holguin 0 (2) 0-0 6, Kole Stewart 0 1-2 1, Xavier Webb 2 4-6 10, Spencer Yowell 1 3-4 5, Kade Salisbury 3 (1) 2-2 11, Gard Evans 0 0-0 0, Coley Nicholls 0 (2) 1-2 7, Jerer Kohler 0 2-2 2, Jordan Belville 0 0-0 0, Seth Quayle 5 1-2 11. Totals 12 (5) 16-23 55.
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