Riverton • While most of the attention centered around the player who wasn't on the court, the return of Lateesha Richards took center stage.
Richards, who sat out last season after transferring from Bingham, scored a game-high 16 points to lead Riverton past Springville 57-37 on Tuesday in a matchup between the reigning Class 5A and 4A state champions.
"It feels good to be back," said Richards, who made a pair of 3-pointers. "I hadn't played a high school game since my sophomore year, so it was fun. Once I got my first points, I said it was just a game. We were a little rough on conditioning."
While Richards and the Silverwolves flourished, the Red Devils floundered without standout point guard Savannah Park, who sat out with a concussion. Springville's offense never could get in synch, being held to single-digit scoring in three quarters. The Red Devils committed 19 turnovers.
"I'm real happy we got the win, but it's a little tempered that they didn't have their best player," Riverton coach Ron Ence said. "As a coach, I know how important that position is. [Park] is one of the four or five best players in 4A, if not the state."
Still, things were close in the early going. Riverton clung to a 26-23 lead late in the second quarter. Shelby Richards scored five straight points to end the first half and give the Silverwolves momentum the remainder of the way. Riverton outscored Springville 26-14 in the second half.
Without Park to feed her the ball, Springville's top post player, Brooke Wheeler, never got going much of an inside game. The 6-foot-3 senior finished with eight points but often was pushed out from underneath the basket.
"We all knew it was going to be a battle," Lateesha Richards said. "I think we all pulled together and knew what we had to do. It was hard to breathe at times. Our conditioning was not up to where it should have been."
Though the Silverwolves attempted just nine free throws, they converted 25 field goals, nearly doubling that of the Red Devils. Springville had won its last 24 games, going undefeated last season en route to the state championship.
Ence believes better things will come once conditioning improves.
"Most coaches are in the same mode over the next month," Ence said. "Everything is based on endurance, and things will get better with conditioning."
Lateesha Richards, meanwhile, showed she hadn't lost a step since averaging five points per game as a sophomore at Bingham.
"I'm happy for her," Ence said. "Instead of sulking, she accepted her sanction and practiced hard to get herself ready to play."