Prep girls' basketball: Riverton enters 5A tournament with a chance at history
Riverton • Girls' basketball star Shelby Richards sits in a small room just days before the start of the Class 5A tournament. Practice is about to begin, but she is here, spending a moment to reflect on the opportunity the Riverton Silverwolves find in front of them.
Riverton has stepped on the court against another team 22 times this season. The Silverwolves have walked away winners after each game. And if they can do it four more times, they will repeat as state champions and cap one of the most dominant seasons in recent Utah girls' basketball history.
"It doesn't happen too often," Richards said of the chance for an undefeated season. "In a couple years, you'll look back at the scrapbook and remember."
But challenges await for Riverton. Though the Silverwolves were seldom pushed to the limit in the regular season, where they won by an average of over 20 points, Richards knows that one slip-up from here on out, one bad game, can spoil their dream season.
"We have the mindset that, yeah, it's cool that we won every game this season and took region and stuff, but the state tournament is the state tournament," Richards said. "Put away all that was done in the season and it's a fresh start. It's a clean slate and we have to play."
Silverwolves coach Ron Ence knows the pressure that can accompany an undefeated record. So he's taken a specific approach to make sure his team doesn't collapse under it get it out in the open, let it breathe.
"When it's been brought up, I've told the girls to love it and enjoy it, because it could end tomorrow," Ence said. "Probably the opposite approach of trying to ignore it. We talk about it, say, 'Hey, you're undefeated. Print it out. Put it in your scrapbook. Because that's what I'm doing.'
"I'd much rather have fun with it than have it be a noose around them."
The players also are aware of the pressure. Lateesha Richards, Shelby's sister and one of the Silverwolves' top players, said the team has been adept at handling it.
"Some of us think there's pressure, but then again it's just another game," Lateesha Richards said. "We know what we're capable of and we just go out and play."
Of course it's not always that simple. Shelby Richards said every time she steps on the court in the state tournament, knowing everything the Silverwolves have done so far this season can unravel in 32 minutes will be in the back of her mind. But it's a reality she faces head-on.
"It is pretty crazy to think you've got one shot every single time you progress through the tournament," Shelby Richards said. "It's one game, and it could be your whole high school career, for the seniors. But you can't go in scared."
Though Riverton enters the tournament as favorite, Ence acknowledges several other teams have plenty of momentum on their sides. Notably, Layton and Fremont have established themselves among the top teams in the state. Others, like Alta and Viewmont, could be sleepers.
But regardless of the opponent, the Silverwolves insist they won't tread lightly.
"Respect everybody," Ence said. "If you don't, it'll cost you. Respect and prepare the best you can."
Girls' basketball tournament schedules
At SLCC, Taylorsville
First round, Tuesday
• Taylorsville vs. Alta, 9:30 a.m.
• Viewmont vs. Riverton, 11:10 a.m.
• American Fork vs. Layton, 12:50 p.m.
• Copper Hills vs. Cottonwood, 2:30 p.m.
• Lehi vs. Fremont, 4:10 p.m.
• Bingham vs. Granger, 5:50 p.m.
• Hunter vs. Brighton, 7:30 p.m.
• Davis vs. Lone Peak, 9:10 p.m.
At SLCC, Taylorsville
First round, Monday
• Spanish Fork vs. Bountiful, 9:30 a.m.
• Roy vs. Timpanogos, 11:10 a.m.
• Murray vs. Bonneville, 12:50 p.m.
• Highland vs. Springville, 2:30 p.m.
• Skyline vs. Sky View, 4:10 p.m.
• Woods Cross vs. Timpview, 5:50 p.m.
• Wasatch vs. Judge, 7:30 p.m.
• Mountain Crest vs. Mountain View, 9:10 p.m.