After dropping their first five games of the season, the Morgan Trojans are now in full-on winning mode.
Just ask Riverton’s boys’ basketball team. As host of a 16-team holiday tournament, Class 5A Riverton entertained the 3A Trojans in the semifinals of their invitational on Monday night.
And it was Morgan that drew to an even 5-5 mark on the season by outlasting the Silverwolves 79-75 in overtime.
"This helps us prove what we can do, helps give confidence to ourselves," said Morgan senior Ben Saunders after the win. "It shows other schools we can play with them, but mainly I think it’s a confidence thing."
Saunders had perhaps the single biggest bucket of the game for Morgan when he drilled a 3-pointer to start the overtime session. That three-point lead equalled the largest advantage of the night for the Trojans, which spent almost the entire two middle quarters of regulation playing from behind.
At the start of the fourth period, Morgan trailed 50-46 when Saunders was fouled trying a trey. He hit all three and that kicked off a 9-2 run that put the Trojans ahead.
But Riverton (6-4) reclaimed a four-point advantage down the stretch of the fourth when a Brandon Sly bucket was followed by a pair of Jake McCleary free throws for a 64-60 lead. The Silverwolves were still up 65-52 with 1:11 left when Matt Murdock hit a shot, was fouled, and converted the game-tying free throw.
In OT, after Saunders’ long-range shot to open the four-minute stanza, teammate Hunter Stanford got into the lane for a bank shot with 1:15 to play to keep the margin at three. From that point on, Morgan was repeatedly sent to the foul line as Riverton tried to fight its way back.
The Trojans hit nine of its 10 attempts from the charity stripe to secure the win. The last two came from Saunders, who finished with 21 points, with six seconds left.
Morgan, which also got 20 points from Garren Miles and 10 from Bridger Streadbeck, will play Timpview in the championship game Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Riverton was paced by Jeff Arens and Sly, who tallied 23 and 18 points respectively.
"The kids shot the foul shots down the stretch and got us the win," said Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe, whose team won the 3A state title a year ago.
"I think defense, and telling ourselves that we can win, was the difference," Saunders said. "Just playing as hard as we can, knowing we’ve got each other’s backs — that’s what helped us."
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