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Wolverines stun Gillette to advance to 4-A title game

Mar 9, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

By Craig Blumenshine

Staff Writer

CASPER - The Riverton Wolverines stunned the top-ranked Gillette Camels 69-63 Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 4-A state basketball tournament at the Casper Events Center to advance to play Evanston Saturday night in the state title game.

The win, Riverton's 24th this season, is the most in school history for an RHS boys team and was one of the great Wolverine victories of all time against a Gillette team that was 23-2 entering the game. The Camels had not lost to a Wyoming team this year until Riverton took them down at state.

Tough start

But it wasn't looking good for RHS early. It was was looking great in the first half for Gillette and the state's leading scorer Cody Kelly who averages 20 points per game. In the first two quarters, he put up 22 and was the main reason the Camels were up 38-29 at halftime after being ahead 24-10 after one.

As the second quarter started, the Wolverines, who could not find their range from outside early -- they shot four 3-point air balls in the first half -- turned to their inside game to attack the Camels.

Jordan Belville and Seth Quayle, both strong and confident post players, scored eight of Riverton's next 12 points and Michael Johnston, whose offensive presence inside has improved in the second half of the season, added a two-handed above the rim put-back to get the Wolverines within four at 26-22 with 4:31 left in the half. More importantly, Riverton had proved itself that they were capable of making a run at Gillette.

Halftime pledge

To a player, the Wolverines committed to keeping with their year-long strategy of aggressive defense and team play at halftime.

"We needed to keep Cody Kelly in check and play defense," senior Kade Salisbury said.

As the third quarter started and as his team was coming back to the court, Seth Quayle turned to each player encouraging them to keep the effort and intensity high and that is exactly what Riverton did.

"Ten points is not enough to beat us," Seth Quayle said.

The Wolverines endured a mini-run that put the Camels up 61-51 after three but amazingly held Gillette to just two fourth quarter points while hanging 18 on the perennial state basketball power.

Stunning ending

As the final quarter started, the Wolverines made a key defensive change. Recognizing that Coley Nichols had been his team's most aggressive defender, coach Quayle asked his senior to dog Kelly in the fourth quarter. Playing to near exhaustion, Nicholls did not allow Kelly to hit another field goal.

"I don't know how I did that. Coach told us that if we kept believing that we'll be able to come back and he was right. That was my goal. I gave it my all," Nichols said.

Dick Quayle could only describe Nicholls' defensive play as, "Awesome."

It would be a quarter to remember for Riverton.

Gillette, almost inexplicably, tried to slow the game down but turned the ball over on three of its last four possessions - two due to great defensive pressure inside by Belville and Quayle.

"We were in good shape at halftime. But it was as much as what they were doing to us defensively that kept us on our heals (in the fourth quarter)," Gillette coach Mike Curry said.

Xavier Webb scored 13 in the final quarter and made three 3-point shots, two that were well beyond the NBA length three point line painted on the Events Center floor, in the final three minutes. The first bomb tied the game at 63-63 and the second put Riverton up for good with 1:44 still on the clock.

Webb ended with 30 to pace Riverton's stunning fourth quarter comeback and Seth Quayle added 19.

Riverton advanced to play Evanston, who beat Kelly Walsh 50-48 in overtime in Friday's other semifinal, in Saturday's state championship game at the Events Center.

"We beat a darn good Gillette team. I was really impressed by how hard we played," Dick Quayle said.

Riverton 10 19 22 18-- 69

Gillette 24 14 23 2-- 63

Riverton (69) - Brandon Fullerton 0 0-0 0, Kade Salisbury 1 0-0 (1) 5, Anthony Condie 0 0-0 0, Chris Quayle 0 0-0 0, Xavier Webb 3 9-11 (5) 30, Triston Ortiz 0 0-0 0, Michael Johnston 1 0-0 2, Coley Nicholls 4 0-2 8, Myron Oldman 0 0-0 0, Jordan Belville 2 1-2 5, Seth Quayle 6 7-8 19, Wyatt Meyer 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 17-23 (6) 69.

Gillette (63) - Seth Moerkerke 0 0-0 0, Cody Kelly 7 7-9 (4) 33, Tanner Sandvick 1 0-0 2, Thomas Bush 0 0-0 0, Logan Wasson 2 0-0 (1) 7, Michael Cook 1 0-0 (2) 8, Bryce Lyman 2 0-0 (1) 7, Dylan Haddix 3 0-0 6. Totals 16 7-9 (8) 63.

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