We figured out to get the ball to 24. Worked out pretty good. —Riverton head coach Skyler Wilson
WEST JORDAN — When in doubt, give the ball to No. 24.
That sure seemed to be the strategy Friday night for Riverton in a key early region game with West Jordan.
Sophomore Richie Saunders, who wears No. 24, scored 16 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter — including 14 straight during one stretch — as Riverton pulled away from West Jordan for a 60-51 road victory.
“We figured out to get the ball to 24. Worked out pretty good,” said smiling Riverton coach Skyler Wilson.
The win capped a “huge week for us,” according Wilson, with his team beating Herriman on Tuesday.
“We hadn’t beat Herriman in three years, so we weren’t thinking about anything but that. That was a huge win for our guys mentally. We’ve had a little mental funk with them. They kept us out of state last year by beating us twice,” said Wilson.
Initially, the momentum of that big win didn’t carry over to Friday as West Jordan raced to a quick 12-1 lead as Riverton missed its first five shots.
Wilson called a couple of timeouts during the stretch to settle his players down and not let the game get too far out of reach.
“I didn’t yell at them. I just tried to remind them who we are, and they came out of it and scrapped their way right back in the game. We get a charge, we get a loose ball,” said Wilson. “It’s been that way all year. It’s just how they are. Sometimes all they need is a little reminder, which is pretty amazing.”
Riverton fought back and cut West Jordan’s lead to 17-12 by the end of the first quarter and then took an 18-17 lead early in the second quarter.
The ’Wolves maintained a narrow 30-29 lead at halftime and then 41-39 after the third quarter as West Jordan struggled offensively with second-leading scorer Darrian Nebeker on the bench in foul trouble most of the game.
Early in the fourth quarter though, the Jaguars found a little momentum scoring on three of four possessions to open up a 45-41 lead with 6:04 remaining.
“We just had to tighten the screws on our defense a little bit. We gave them some gaps to drive and got lost a couple times on defense,” said Wilson.
Riverton did exactly that, holding West Jordan to just six points over those last six minutes, while at the same time Saunders was going off at the other end of the floor.
“You’ve got to play with that confidence,” said Saunders. “It was an emotional game, but all that matters is we won together.”
During his 16-point fourth quarter, Saunders buried three 3-pointers, the last giving Riverton a 55-49 lead with 1:29 remaining. After that, his team sealed the win from the foul line.