(Riverton, WY) – The Riverton Wolverines bring a 14-game win streak and the best defense in Class 4-A to their opening state tournament game this Thursday at 9 pm against the Sheridan Broncs.
Riverton sports an impressive 19-5 overall record, and swept the Class 4-A West with a 10-0 regular season record, before sweeping the West Regional Tournament played on their home floor last weekend.
The sobering reality of the state tournament is that all of Riverton’s five losses came against teams from the East 4-A, including their opening round opponent Sheridan. Riverton fell 45-38 to the Broncs exactly three months before their opening round game on Thursday at Casper College.
“It’ll be good, the four teams on the other side are really stout, everyone knows that,” Riverton head coach Beau Sheets said. “It’ll be a good game. Statewide, we’re probably fifth, so it’ll be a 4/5 style of game. They got us by 7 the second game of the season.”
Sheridan is big, and they play a hard physical style of basketball.
“They were good at the beginning of the year, comparable to Star Valley, they’re big, and can shoot the three,” Sheets said. “They play physical defense. There’s a reason they’ve been in the state football championship so many times.”
The Wolverines aren’t exactly helpless and can play a very physical style if they want to. Riverton is a defensive team, the kind of team that can break your heart by not letting you get into your half-court offense, forcing poor shots, and denying the drive.
The key to Riverton’s defense is the quickness of the perimeter players in Tanner Johnson, Parker Paxton, Jason Vincent, and Derick Lange and their collective ability to deny the baseline, hawk the point guard, and defend the perimeter shot. When opponents do get inside, 6-6 senior Lucas Engle is a force in the paint. Engle alters, blocks, or simply denies shots in the paint, and intimidates many players to kick the ball back outside.
“On defense, the boys have bought in,” Sheets said. “You talk about toughness, and it’s the teams that do the little things.”
In addition to the starting five, Kade Gabrielsen, Darrick DeVries, Hunter Hauck, and Dre’Vin Monroe have all contributed quality minutes and hit key shots throughout the season.
Win on Thursday and the Wolverines will likely face Cheyenne East, again at 9 pm, but this time on the big floor at the Wyoming Ford Center.