Riverton rounding into form for final stretchFeb 11, 2020 01:02PM ● By Travis Barton
Senior Grace Barrus hits a three-pointer in the first quarter against Fremont. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
After a tough preseason schedule to prepare them for a “brutal region,” Riverton High girls basketball coach Jodi Lee feels her team is “right where we need to be.”
The Silverwolves went 6-4 in its preseason gauntlet with three of those losses coming against top 10 teams: Skyridge (No.1 in RPI at press time), Fremont (No. 2) and Lone Peak (No. 8).
But it was done intentionally, Lee said, to prepare them for a region that features powerhouses Herriman, Copper Hills and defending champion Bingham.
Riverton started out its region with a victory over West before dropping a home game to Copper Hills that saw the Grizzlies outscore Riverton 21-10 in the third quarter to win 47-38.
But two nights later, Lee and her team responded with an intense 57-50 away win against Herriman. While the Silverwolves played from behind most of the night, they kept it close enough to take over in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Mustangs 22-13 to pull away with the victory.
“I don’t think it was the best we’ve played,” Lee said the day after the game. “But they locked them down defensively; the rebounding in the fourth quarter was phenomenal; we limited them to one possession. The composure on the offensive end was by far the best (of the season).”
That composure is summed up perfectly in senior Hailey Burt. A four-year varsity player in both soccer and basketball, the senior sunk several free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory.
“She’s really confident in her free-throw shooting,” Lee said of Burt. “Just a confident kid, which is awesome.”
For Burt, it’s the four years of varsity experience that have prepared her for the pressure—and maybe the hostile environment, putting up with opposing players smack talk or playing in front of your rivals’ fans.
“It’s like when people want me to fail, I feel like that’s when I succeed,” Burt said.
The game featured a raucous Herriman crowd that motivated the girls. “It was fun playing in it, and it actually boosted us up a lot,” said senior Ava Miller, who finished the game with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists. “We kind of fed off of it even though they weren't cheering for us because we wanted to do good so they wouldn't talk or anything. It was really intense.”
And it made the victory all the sweeter.
“We went in the locker room just screaming,” Burt said. “It was so happy. It was one of those moments that high school is about.”
Coming into the season, Lee, in her second year at Riverton, felt the team might struggle early on as it built chemistry and experience in key positions.
The Silverwolves have six seniors this year but only one junior. And none of the seniors are natural point guards, forcing Lee to turn to her sophomore class to fill the spot.
“I knew we would have strong post play, but I knew it would take these younger guards time to get going, and I think we’re starting to see that—the chemistry, the development, the confidence building,” she said.
Sophomores Morganne McCleary and Abigail McDougal are playing big minutes at point guard, neither of whom saw the varsity floor last year. But with a large senior class, Burt said they’ve tried to lead by showing they “genuinely care about them.”
“We believe in their ability to be on the court even if they’re a sophomore,” Burt said. “We believe in them so they respect us and by earning their respect, it works together for a better team aspect.”
“This year, our biggest strength is that we’re here for each other and not for ourselves,” she added.
With its strong inside presence and a deep bench (Riverton often goes through a rotation of 10 players), the team is feeling good about its chances.
“At first, we thought we couldn’t really compete with the best teams versus now, we feel we can beat the best teams,” Miller said.
In order to do so, coaches and players said they will have to fix their consistency problem.
Several of Riverton’s games were essentially decided by one quarter. Its loss to Fremont saw three closely fought quarters undone by a 24-10 second quarter for Fremont, while the third quarter against Copper Hills proved decisive. Vice versa, Riverton’s 25-11 fourth quarter outburst against Timpview saw the team win by 10, as well as the victory against Herriman.
“I know that our team can beat any team … if we play every quarter,” Burt said. “I believe in us; we’re just a little inconsistent so it kind of depends on the night, but the skill is there.”
As for the rest of the season, the Silverwolves are in a logjam atop Region 3, but Lee feels if they can get quality wins against the better teams and take care of the ones they should, they could be right there for a top six seed (and a bye) and a region trophy.
“I feel like we’re right where we need to be,” Lee said.