RIVERTON Riverton boys basketball coach Steve Galley and Riverton girls basketball coach Ron Ence have been enjoying the fruits of their labors.
When Riverton High opened its doors in 1999, the school as one might expect struggled mightily in athletics. But that all seems like a distant memory now, particularly in basketball, where the boys and girls teams have enjoyed considerable success in recent seasons.
"When they opened the school new, they went four years without ever having a winning team," said Ence. "I think we've turned the corner on that. I think we've got the philosophy in place (and) the coaching staffs in place.
"I think we're going to win more than we lose," Ence added before quickly noting that he hopes Riverton's athletic program will be judged on more than just wins and losses.
However, "winning more than losing" is a label that can certainly be applied to Riverton basketball right now.
On the boys side, the Silverwolves have advanced to the 5A title game in each of the last two seasons. On the girls side, they have won back-to-back Region 3 championships.
This year, the challenge for both programs is essentially the same: They wish to continue their successful runs.
Of course, that won't easy, as both teams are faced with the unenviable task of replacing star players. However, as Ence pointed out, the framework for success seems to be in place.
BOYS: Gone is 2007 Mr. Basketball Morgan Grim, who is now plying his trade at the University of Utah. Gone also is a solid supporting class of seniors that surrounded him.
Just three players with previous varsity experience, including junior transfer Scott Friel, are on Riverton's roster this year, and when you add it up, you quickly realize how much different this edition of Riverton basketball will be compared to the previous one.
"We're basically an entirely new team and an entirely different team," said Galley.
That doesn't mean, however, that the Silverwolves don't have talent. They do. It's just that the talent is extremely raw and unproven.
Accordingly, wins and losses won't be of monumental importance during the preseason.
"Our goals for the preseason are a little less win-oriented and more development-oriented," said Galley. "We want to get better. There's plenty of teams that are on fire in November and December, and not so on fire when February hits.
"That's our goal. It doesn't always happen, but you're trying to get to that last part of February, going into the tournament, and you're playing your best. We have nowhere to go but up, so that's good."
Expect Friel, a versatile athlete, to help lead the way. A year ago as a sophomore he started at point guard for Hunter High. However, he moved from West Valley City to Herriman over the summer, and Galley has been thrilled to inherit him.
"We've actually thought we would have a lot more move-ins over the years than we have because we are in a high-growth area," said Galley. "We have new students every week at school, but we haven't had any really good basketball players move in until Scott.
"It's great because he fills several positions that we need. He started as a sophomore last year on a good team, and he's easy to coach team player all the way."
Galley quickly added that Friel is still adjusting to Riverton's system. To date, he's been playing on the wing, but he can legitimately fill any position on the court.
Does he have a preference?
"It's pretty much whatever," he said. "I don't mind bringing the ball up or going down and getting some dirty rebounds."
Aside from Friel, Lucas Philipoom and Cory Cardwell are the only other returning players with previous varsity experience.
Senior Walker Grim, the younger brother of Morgan Grim, was slated to be a starter, but he went down with a season-ending injury just one day before Riverton's season-opener.
GIRLS: Like the boys team, Riverton's girls squad has been adjusting to life without some star power. Forward Amanda Hansen, a two-time first-team All-State selection, has graduated, as well as All-State honorable mention recipient Shannon Hildreth.
Also like the boys team, Riverton's girls squad returns just three players with extensive varsity experience Alle Finch, Chelsea Sorensen and Avi Burgess.
For now, those three are locks to start this season. However, there's been lots of competition to find out who will fill the other two spots.
"We are going to use the preseason games to play lots of different kids at some different positions, so I can get a real good feel for what they can do," said Ence. "I want to win the games, but right now I'm really concerned about how we're coming together as a team.
"I lost two girls that had been starting since there were sophomores. Last year, I knew what was coming back. This year, I'm taking a real good look at several different kids."
One thing working in Ence's favor is the fact that he has a number of talented athletes at his disposal, including several multi-sport stars.
Finch is a three-sport athlete, Sorensen was the Region 3 MVP in volleyball and junior Shelby Ostler, who's competing for time along the guardline, made first-team All-State in soccer.
"I've never been a 'you should be a basketball-only kid,' " (kind of coach)," said Ence. "Forget it. I just want you to play basketball during basketball season, and use your God-given ability.
"It's benefit to the program and to the school when you can use your talents in other areas."
During this basketball season, the challenge for Riverton will be to mesh the talented pieces into a cohesive unit."We're working on getting closer-knit as a team, so we can play better," said Finch.
Riverton Silverwolves boys basketball
League: Region 3
Last season: 17-7 overall, second in Region 3, lost in championship game of state playoffs
Predicted 2007-08 region finish: Third
Head coach: Steve Galley, 14th year overall as a head coach
Assistant coaches: Stephen Baker, Chris Gallagher, Chris Rodriguez, Skyler Wilson
Key returning players: Cory Cardwell, 6-1 guard, Sr.; Lucas Philipoom, 5-11 guard, Sr.
Key newcomers: Scott Friel, 6-5 athlete, Jr.; Geoff Andrews, 6-4 guard/forward, Sr.; Sean Neilson, 6-0 guard, Jr.; Ryan Thomas, 6-foot-7 post, Jr.
Nov. 21 Brighton 69, Riverton 55
Nov. 27 Riverton 50, Northridge 37
Dec. 7 Pleasant Grove 92, Riverton 60
Dec. 11 Riverton 70, Layton 48
Dec. 14 Weber at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Dec. 18 Taylorsville at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 Riverton at Murray, 7 p.m.
Dec. 27 Orem vs. Riverton (at Logan HS), 7 p.m.
Dec. 28 Riverton vs. TBA (at Logan HS), TBA
Dec. 29 Riverton vs. TBA (at Logan HS), TBA
Jan. 8 Hillcrest at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 Riverton at Bingham, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 Hunter at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 Riverton at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 Copper Hills at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 Riverton at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 Bingham at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Riverton at Hunter, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 West Jordan at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 Kearns at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Feb. 20 Riverton at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Riverton Silverwolves girls basketball
League: Region 3
Last season: 16-6, first in Region 1, lost in first round of state playoffs
Predicted 2007-08 region finish: Second
Head coach: Ron Ence, 5th year
Assistant coaches: Jill Ames, Mike Johnson, Holly Wride
Key returning players: Alle Finch, 5-11 guard/forward, Jr.; Chelsea Sorensen, 6-3 center, Jr.; Avi Burgess, 5-9 guard/forward, Sr.
Key newcomers: Bri Campbell, 5-8 guard, Jr.; Jackie Lambourne, 5-7 guard, senior; Shelby Ostler, 5-6 guard, Jr.; Malissa Ingram, 5-6 guard, Sr.
Nov. 20 Riverton 58, East 41
Nov. 27 Riverton 59, Olympus 32
Nov. 30 Lone Peak 38, Riverton 36
Dec. 6 Riverton 71, Juan Diego 19
Dec. 7 Riverton 50, Morgan 43
Dec. 8 Riverton 71, Bear River 36
Dec. 11 Riverton 57, Layton 43
Dec. 20 Jordan at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Dec. 28 Cyprus at Riverton, 4 p.m.
Jan. 3 Riverton at Timpanogos, 7 p.m.
Jan. 4 Alta at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 Riverton at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Jan. 10 Bingham at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 Riverton at Hunter, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17 Riverton at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 Riverton at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 Kearns at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 Riverton at Bingham, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Hunter at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Feb. 7 West Jordan at Riverton, 7 p.m.Feb. 12 Copper Hills at Riverton, 7 p.m.
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