MURRAY It's tough to defend a multiple-threat shooting team, particularly a confident one on a five-game winning streak to open the season like the Murray Spartans.
Riverton put in the necessary defensive work Friday night, fighting through screens, taking charges and contesting the majority of Murray's shots, all of which paid off in a 52-45 road victory over the Spartans.
"We're pretty happy because we feel like we did earn it, they are a hard team to guard," said Riverton coach Steve Galley.
The victory improved Riverton's record to 4-3, while dropping Murray to 5-1.
"Our goal all long with this team is to be good when we get to January," said Galley, whose team's three preseason losses are to Brighton, Pleasant Grove and Weber. "I've probably paid less attention to the scoreboard this preseason than with any team I've had. We've had to replace so many guys."
That inexperience was painfully obvious in the opening few minutes as the 'Wolves turned the ball over four times in the first few minutes. Murray capitalized by racing to a 10-2 lead as Markus Duran and Zach Lloyd each knocked down 3-pointers.
Galley quickly called a timeout and reminder his players to settle down. Riverton responded cutting the deficit to 12-10 by the end of the first quarter and it only trailed 22-21 at the half.
"Our guys were taking charges, and I think that really made a difference to get us back in the game," said Galley.
In the second half, Riverton's patience and Murray's reliance on quick shots turned out to be the difference.
The 'Wolves made 8-of-12 shots in the third quarter, most of which came in the paint, as they opened up a 40-35 lead. Murray stayed close with four 3-pointers, two each by Duran and Rhett Gardiner. The Spartans' dependence on the trifecta would be their undoing in the fourth quarter.
Riverton continued to patiently work the ball on offense, opening up a 48-37 lead late in the game before Murray hit a couple of 3-pointers to make it semi-interesting.
Commenting on his team's numerous lay-ups, Galley said, "You try and use their aggressiveness to your own advantage."
Riverton finished the game shooting 54 percent (21-39) compared to 38 percent for Murray (17-44). Riverton had three players score in double-figures, with Scott Friel and Geoff Andrews each finishing with 15 and Ryan Thomas chipping with 14. Without Morgan Grim, last year's Mr. Basketball, that balance is vital if the 'Wolves are to compete in Region 3 and 5A this year.
"As a coach, you're hoping that happens because you're much more difficult to defend," said Galley. "When you get to region most teams can shut down one or two guys."In the loss, Murray was led by Duran, who finished with 15 points by knocking down five his team's 10 3-pointers.