Mar 12, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterThe Wolverines took down top-ranked Gillette on the strength of an 18-2 fourth quarter, handing the Camels their first loss to a Wyoming team this season.
CASPER -- The Riverton Wolverines came up four points short in Saturday night's Class 4-A state championship basketball game Saturday, but the semifinal victory that got them there was one to remember.
Riverton stunned the top-ranked Gillette Camels 69-63 Friday at the Casper Events Center to advance to play Evanston Saturday night in the state title game.
The win, Riverton's 24th this season, set a record for most in school history by an RHS boys team and was one of the great Wolverine victories of all time. RHS overcame a Gillette team that was 23-2 entering the game, including an 83-54 rout of Riverton in December. The Camels had not lost to a Wyoming team this year until the Wolverines took them down at state.
It wasn't looking good for RHS early, but it was looking great in the first half for Gillette and the state's leading scorer, Cody Kelley, who averages 20 points per game. He was far ahead of that pace in the first half, scoring 25 points to put the Camels up 38-29 at halftime after being ahead 24-10 after the first quarter.
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 capable of making a run at Gillette.
To a player, the Wolverines committed at halftime to keeping with their year-long strategy of aggressive defense and team play.
"We needed to keep Cody Kelley 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. 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 periods. Amazingly, however, they held Gillette to just two fourth-quarter points while hanging 18 on the perennial state basketball power.
As the final quarter started, the Wolverines made a key defensive change. Recognizing that Coley Nicholls had been his team's most aggressive defender, coach Quayle asked his senior to dog Kelley in the fourth quarter. Playing to near exhaustion, Nicholls did not allow Kelley to hit another field goal.
"I don't know how I did that. Coach told us that if we kept believing, we'll be able to come back -- and he was right. That was my goal. I gave it my all," Nicholls said.
Coach Quayle could only describe Nicholls's 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 what they were doing to us defensively that kept us on our heels (in the fourth quarter)," Gillette coach Mike Curry said.
Xavier Webb, who matched Kelley's first-half tally with 25 points of his own in the second half, made three 3-point shots in the fourth quarter -- two that were well beyond the NBA-length 3-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 on the clock as the Events Center Crowd roared.
Webb ended with 30 points, and Seth Quayle added 19. After his big first half, Kelley scored eight in the second to finish with 33.
Free throws always are important in games against the aggressive Gillette boys, and the Wolverines came through with a 17-for-23 performance at the line, 89 percent.
Riverton advanced to play Evanston, which beat Kelly Walsh 50-48 in overtime in Friday's other semifinal.
"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.
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