RICHFIELD — Cinderella arrived in Richfield but not in a horse-drawn carriage or ball gown.
Instead, the Valley boys basketball team showed up in a yellow school bus wearing orange and black away uniforms and stole the 1A tournament spotlight by upsetting second-ranked Layton Christian 54-41 in the first game of the tournament's first round.
Unlike the heavily favored Eagles, who won Region 17, the Buffaloes earned Region 20's fifth and final playoff spot and then had to win a play-in game Tuesday night just to make it Wednesday's first round.
Still, the Buffaloes didn't feel like underdogs in a game that not many expected them to win. "We felt that if we could compete every possession it would give us a chance to win the game," Valley head coach Dustin Shakespear said. "That was our whole focus, and then to play together as a team."
The Buffaloes' plan was simple, and it helped them keep their opponent in perspective.
"We approached it just like every other game," Shakespear said. "Play defense, rebound and please take care of the ball."
A key reason for the win was the contribution the team got from its bench. DJ Riffle came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 17 points, including four 3-pointers. Riffle moved to Orderville from Orem, and his personality has given the team a lift, said the coach.
"DJ jas brought a great personality to the team," Shakespear said. "And these boys accepted him with open arms. It's been fun to see him gel and really learn to play team basketball." Riffle had never played organized basketball before this season, but the senior has adapted well to the more disciplined game.
"He's been a breath of fresh air," Shakespear said.
Riffle also had four assists and four steals.
Valley's Colby Spencer finished with 16 points, while Dallen Esplin added seven points and six rebounds.
"Our bench played really, really strong," said Shakespear. "This team that I have, they've been through a lot mentally. ... They've had to come together in different ways." Relying on each other has helped the Buffaloes play best when it matters most.
"I wasn't surprised by the way that our boys played," he said. "You can never doubt this group's work ethic. They always work extremely hard, and when their shots fall, they have a good chance to win."
Valley entered the tournament with a 9-13 record, while the Eagles entered with a 14-8 record. They went 14-0 in Region 17.
The Buffaloes led by seven entering the fourth quarter and pulled away late thanks to solid free-throw shooting. The Buffaloes made 19 of 29 free throws compared to just 3 of 11 for Layton Christian.6 comments on this story
The Eagles were led by Duce Namazi, who scored 15 points, and Ricardo Gomez, who added 12 points. Gomez added four rebounds and seven steals in the loss that sends Layton Christian to consolation play, where the Eagles could compete for sixth place.
The win allows the Valley to face Bryce Valley in the quarterfinals. It will be the third time the Region 20 teams have met this season.
"They're really excited," Shakespear said. "We've played them twice this year, and the first time, we weren't very prepared."