I don’t think this (win) will diminish (the fact) that (Copper Hills) is the team to beat, but we had a great night led by a great player. —Riverton head coach Ron Ence
WEST JORDAN — Throughout the season, the Copper Hills Grizzlies had been one of the best, if not the very best, girls basketball teams in the state. Eighteen total victories, 15 in a row, as well as an undefeated region record can attest to that.
On Thursday night, Senior Night, however, wasn’t the case. For one night at least, that title belonged to the Riverton Silverwolves.
Led by star center Morgan Kane, who finished with a game-high 22 points, Riverton (14-5, 2-2) went to Copper Hills (18-2, 5-1) and pulled off a thrilling 60-50 upset victory.
“I don’t think this (win) will diminish (the fact) that (Copper Hills) is the team to beat, but we had a great night led by a great player,” Riverton head coach Ron Ence said. “I am just happy and excited for tonight. (I) wish it was more than it is, but it is a great win for our program. We’ve beaten some average teams and haven’t been able to beat a good team. Tonight we beat a great team.”
In addition to Kane, the Silverwolves benefited from the play of nearly every player that stepped on the floor. Hailey Burt and Meredith Coleman each chipped in 10 points, with McKenzie McCombs adding nine. Their contributions were made all the more important as Riverton lost starter Sydnee Jackson to a gruesome ankle injury mere moments into the contest.
That injury, as well as a lethargic start by the Silverwolves, seemed to all but guarantee another Copper Hills’ victory in the early moments of the game.
The Grizzlies jumped out to a quick six-point advantage, led by their Big Three of Breaunna Gillen, Eleyana ‘E’ Tafisi and Lenisi Fineanganofo.
If not for a Riverton timeout, the Grizzlies may have run away with it.
“You have to call timeout,” said Ence. “Maybe they double the score, maybe they don’t, but you have to call timeout.”
Coming out of the timeout, the Silverwolves were a completely different team. Composed, energized and disciplined, the visitors rallied, outscoring the home side 12-6 to finish the period.
Kane was particularly instrumental in the turnaround, dominating on the boards, as well as scoring in almost every way imaginable.
“(Coach) said this is our ballgame and we needed to control,” Kane said of the game-changing timeout. “They are really fast and have really great guards so we needed to control the tempo.”
“Even though we were going slower, we had to go to our strengths, which are driving, kicking out and rebounding,” she continued. “It took us a second to get the feel for it, but once we got the feel for it we were able to execute correctly.”
Did they ever.
The second quarter was dominated by Riverton, which kicked off the period with a 12-1 run. Everyone got involved, with Burt, McCombs, Kaitlin Burgess and Hailey Anderson all putting the ball in the net.
“We had to use all of our options that we might not have used in other games,” said Kane. “They’re a great team and we really had to execute well.”
At the half, Riverton led 32-23 and was well on its way to pulling off the road victory.
The Grizzlies won 15 games in a row for a reason, however, and started the third quarter showing just how.
If not for the play of Kane, the third quarter assuredly would have belonged to the hosts.
Kane was unstoppable, however, and almost single-handily answered each and every Copper Hills score with one of her own.
“She has all the qualities you need,” said Ence. “There is leadership, rebounding, and defense. She’s an all-around player. She is probably the best all-around post player in the state.”
Copper Hills managed, with a dramatic increase of on-ball pressure defense, to get as close as seven points in the fourth quarter, but an airball by Tafisi, followed by back-to-back empty trips at the free throw line all but silenced any hope of a Grizzly comeback.
On the other side, Burt drilled four clutch free throws, with Burgess chipping in a pair of her own that sealed the deal.
“I’m speechless,” said Kane. “We have been preparing all week for this. They are an amazing team. I am really glad that we were able to contribute and do well together. This is a big win for us.”
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