RIVERTON — Everything comes down to defense for Riverton girls basketball.
Heading into Thursday night’s contest against the Herriman Mustangs, the Region 3 opener for both schools, the Silverwolves were 6-2 when they held their opponent to under 50 points in a game.
What happened when their opponents bested the half-century mark? Riverton was just 2-2 this season.
It is for that reason that Riverton head coach Jodi Lee preached defense ahead of the contest with the Mustangs.
“Coming into the game (tonight) we had two goals in mind,” Lee said. “One was to commit to our defense. We wanted to get a lot of tips with our big, tall girls up front.”
Those tips, that focus on defense, Lee hoped, would lead to run-outs and fastbreak opportunities, which ultimately would help the Silverwolves accomplish their second goal.
“Offensively we wanted to attack their zone,” Lee said.
After 32 minutes of basketball at Riverton High School, it was mission accomplished for the Silverwolves.
Led by senior Kaitlin Burgess, who scored a game-high 13 points, and powered by stifling team defense, Riverton defeated Herriman 53-40.
The beginning of the contest actually favored Herriman, as the visitors jumped out to an 8-4 advantage early in the first quarter. Haley Stilson and Ainzlee Enger each canned a three-pointer for the Mustangs, while Kylee Cheesman added a basket of her own.
Riverton bounced back after the initial Herriman surge, paced by senior Megan Headrick, who had five first-quarter points.
In the second period, Miller took over and dominated the interior of the Mustangs 2-3 zone defense. The junior scored five points in the period and helped Riverton take a 22-20 lead into halftime.
“We are very blessed because we have great size,” said Lee. “Opposite of Ava we have Megan who’ll just clean things up for us. It was a conscious effort to look for Ava and to her credit, she demanded the ball tonight. She didn’t do that a week ago — and Riverton lost to Pleasant Grove 52-44 — but she demanded the ball and we got her the ball.”
Miller’s effectiveness continued into the second half, as she scored five third-quarter points. She wasn’t alone, however, as the Silverwolves offense reached a new level in the period.
“We wanted to attack their zone and I think that was the difference maker (in the third quarter),” said Lee. “We went at their zone and didn’t settle for jump shots.”Comment on this story
Herriman made more than one rally attempt in the fourth quarter and got within eight points of the hosts with just over three minutes remaining, but the Silverwolves ultimately had an answer for each and every Mustang run.
“Throughout this whole season what I’ve seen at the end of games is a lot of maturity from our seniors,” said Lee. “I felt like Herriman was trying to fluster us with their defense and we really kept composed at the end. Our seniors understand timing and they understand at the end of the game when they should hold the ball and when to attack. I am proud of our lineup and what they did tonight.”