We spread it out, and we hadn’t really done that at all this year, tried to get our guys to move the ball a little bit better and I think it kind of wore them out. —Riverton coach Skyler Wilson
RIVERTON — Riverton’s scrappy brand of basketball keeps leading to positive results.
The ‘Wolves pulled away from Cottonwood 69-51 in the semifinals of the Riverton Holiday Tournament on Friday to advance to the championship game for the first time in three years.
It was Riverton’s eighth win of the season, and the formula has been pretty similar.
“We get off the bus and everybody’s like, ‘oh geez Riverton, but then we start playing and it’s just the opposite cause they’re really scrappy, they hustle and really just play well together. It’s really fun to coach,” said Riverton coach Skyler Wilson.
Richie Saunders led the way with 23 points for Riverton, which shot 41 percent from the field. That was more than enough against cold-shooting Cottonwood, which only shot 27 percent from the field the night after upsetting Kearns to advance to the semifinals.
Despite Cottonwood’s off night, it also plays a scrappy basketball and it was still well within striking distance only down 53-45 with just over five minutes remaining.
Riverton closed the game on a 16-6 run — scoring on eight straight possessions — to advance to the title game against Wasatch at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
“We spread it out, and we hadn’t really done that at all this year, tried to get our guys to move the ball a little bit better and I think it kind of wore them out,” said Wilson.
Dixie’s bid for a third straight Riverton tourney title came up short in the semifinals on Friday, something Wilson said his team is excited to try and reclaim.
“It’s kind of fun to say to them here’s something we can actually play for this time of year on our home court. It means a lot to them,” said Wilson.
That mentality was evident early as Riverton built an early 11-1 lead as its defense contributed to Cottonwood missing its first 10 shots.
“We’re kind of doing some things a little differently this year. We’re not very athletic so we can’t spread the whole court and trap and press, but in the 19 feet we have to guard we get pretty aggressive,” said Wilson.
Riverton’s lead remained in double digits the entire second and third quarter and even swelled to 16 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Neilson late in the third, but the Colts kept grinding away.
Spence McDonald and Zach Nelson connected on back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minute of the third quarter to trim Riverton’s lead to 52-42. Cottonwood whittled it to 52-44 with a couple trips to the free throw line early in the fourth quarter but the momentum was short-lived.
McDonald and Eli Reynolds each scored 15 points to lead the Colts.