Feb 15, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterCasper Natrona head boys basketball coach Shawn Gillum tried to get his Mustangs to set a physical tone from the opening tip during Thursday's Class 4-A West game against the Riverton Wolverines.
Natrona changed to a more aggressive man-to-man defense from the zone Riverton saw earlier this year, and Gillum implored his team to hustle, be first to the ball,l and play hard.
"That's what we talked about before the game," Gillum said.
So, when Riverton's Seth Quayle won the opening tip, Xavier Webb streaked for a layup, and Natrona's Connor True blasted Webb as he drove to the hoop, you could sense that the Mustangs wanted to send exactly that kind of tough message early.
It didn't work.
The Wolverine's played a composed, hustling, athletic and physical game of their own and outscored the Mustangs in every quarter to gain an important 61-44 Class 4-A West win in a game played in Rustler Gym at Central Wyoming College.
And it didn't take long for Riverton dead coach Dick Quayle to start thinking about Saturday's upcoming game against the Kelly Walsh Trojans.
"It's a big game, there's no question. We win and we go to state," Quayle said as he gathered with his coaching staff in the locker room after the game, trying on their own to find a place for the team to practice Friday. They've been displaced from their home Wolverine Gym because of the Class 4-A West wrestling tournament in town this weekend.
The Wolverines were led Thursday by point guard Kade Salisbury. Playing under control and with late-season confidence, the senior scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had five assists. His energetic defense flustered Natrona's ball handlers all night.
"He just did a lot of good things, and when he plays like that, it is really great," Quayle said.
Webb added 11 points, and seven other Wolverines dented the scorebook to contribute in Thursday's win, Riverton's 19th of the season with only two losses.
Natrona's Chandler Meeboer tried to keep his team in Thursday's game early with two first-quarter 3-point shots, but Salisbury scored five of Riverton's first six point. Seth Quayle's two second-quarter free throws, followed by a Webb layup and a Chris Quayle 3-point bucket forced NC to call a timeout with Riverton up 26-17 with 3:18 left to play before halftime. Natrona could not get close after that.
Riverton dominated the boards. Jordan Belville also grabbed nine rebounds, and, as a team, the Wolverines out-boarded NC 37-27.
Michael Johnston had his best game of the season, according to Quayle. The senior scored six, yanked down five rebounds, and had three crowd-pleasing blocked shots.
"We're 6-1 in conference. That's what we care about," Quayle said.
Riverton will try to avenge its only league loss at Kelly Walsh Saturday. Earlier this year, in Wolverine Gym, the Trojans (10-10, 4-3 4-A West) topped the Wolverines 37-32.
With a win Saturday, RHS will finish no lower than second in the 4-A West and earn an automatic bid to the state tourney and a first-round 4-A West tournament bye.
"The two to five spots are wide open in our conference. Riverton is obviously the favorite," Gillum said.
Riverton's game at Kelly Walsh is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
Natrona 9 12 10 13 -- 44
Riverton 15 17 14 15 -- 61
Natrona (44) - Brett Kautzmann 0 1-2 1, Parker Browning 1 4-4 (1) 9, Chandler Meeboer 0 0-1 (3) 9, Nathan Pieper 5 0-3 10, Connor True 1 1-2 3, Rhett Bratton 0 0-1 (1) 3, Logan Wilson 3 0-1 6, Cody Carpenter 1 0-0 2, Robert Creager 0 0-0 0, James Sulser 0 0-0 0, Austin Banks 0 1-2 1, Brady Dalen 0 0-0 0, Adam Britton 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 7-16 (5) 44.
Riverton (61) - Kade Salisbury 4 6-7 (1) 17, Xavier Webb 3 2-5 (1) 11, Coley Nicholls 1 1-2 (1) 6, Jordan Belville 1 2-2 4, Seth Quayle 2 2-2 6, Brandon Fullerton 0 0-1 0, Anthony Condie 2 2-2 6, Chris Quayle 0 0-2 (1) 3, Michael Johnston 2 2-2 6, Myron Oldman 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 17-25 (4) 61.
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