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Riverton finds road back to state tournament
Riverton Wolverine point guard Kade Salisbury looked inside after beating Evanston's Matt Eddington during the championship game of the Class 4-A West regional tournament. The Wolverines open at the state tournament Thursday against Cheyenne Central. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Riverton finds road back to Class 4-A state tournament

Mar 7, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

It's been a long time since a Riverton Wolverine boys basketball team has been to the state Class 4-A tournament. It's been even longer since RHS won a game there.

But the Wolverines have discovered the road back to state, and, after finishing second in the Class 4-A West tournament last week, Riverton (19-7) will battle the Cheyenne Central Indians (14-12) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gymnasium on the campus of Casper College.

Central advanced to state by placing third in the Class 4-A East tournament with an overtime win over Laramie 26-25, a loss to Sheridan 43-42 (a game where Central blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter), and a win over Cheyenne East 52-38.

Riverton last played at a state tournament in 2004, when the Wolverines were eliminated with losses to Cheyenne East 76-67 in the opening round and to Cheyenne Central 51-33 in consolation play.

"Obviously, we are excited and happy about where we are. We've got a tough draw. I think Cheyenne Central is playing as well as anyone on the East side right now," RHS head coach Dick Quayle said.

The Indians play a deliberate, ball control-game in which each and every possession is valued from the get-go. Against Laramie at the East regional, the score after the first quarter was 3-2.

"It was one of those games. It was a possession-by-possession game. We try to take what's available, and if there is not much available, we'll keep looking. We are a very patient team. We know what we want, and we try to get it," Central head coach Doug Moratzka said.

The Indians lead the state in defense, allowing just 42.8 points per game, and they also have the state's best field goal percentage, hitting 48 percent.

Low scoring

But the Indians don't score much -- they are in near the Class 4-A bottom in that category -- so they will look to control the pace of the game against Riverton.

"It depends on the night. It depends on what type of defense we are facing. We have tons of shooters, we just don't have very many makers," Moratzka said.

The Wolverines will have a distinct size advantage over the Indians. Riverton averages 30.3 rebounds per game compared to Central's 23.

"We're not big. Nobody's size concerns us, because we don't have any size. There is nothing we can do about that," Moratzka.

Riverton advanced to the championship of the West 4-A regional last week with wins over Rock Springs and Casper Natrona.

"We had a good regional tournament, I thought," Quayle said. "Central will try to take 30 seconds to a minute off the clock on every possession and look to find something backdoor. They want to shorten the game."

The last time the Wolverines won a game at state was against Cheyenne Central 62-48 in 1995.

"I think there are some ways we can attack them. We'll have to be fundamentally sound on defense and make all of the baskets go over the top of us and not give up any layups. I think we are healthy and ready to go. We have to go out an play really hard, there is a bit of a shock factor (at state). It is a new experience for our kids. But it's a good experience," Quayle said.

A Riverton win would place the Wolverines in the state semifinal game Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Casper Events Center against the winner of the Gillette-Natrona game. Should Riverton lose, it would begin consolation play Friday at noon, also at the Events Center.

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