Riverton • It’s all feeling brand new again for Riverton boys’ basketball and coach Skyler Wilson.
In his fourth season of leading the Silverwolves, Wilson had something happen that last occurred in his first year. On Saturday night, Riverton took the championship of its own holiday tournament.
The Silverwolves rode the scoring of sophomore Richie Saunders and senior Ben Neilson to a 64-48 victory over Wasatch in the title game. Saunders, with a variety of shots from all spots on the court, tallied 22 points while Neilson popped three treys and added 15.
“Things are different for us this year. We’re in a new region and we all feel like it’s a push-the-reset-button kind of situation,” Wilson said. “Things that we’ve already done this season — there might be more talented teams, but I don’t think there’s teams that are more together.”
“We knew we could do it,” said Saunders, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “We’re super-together, our team. We know how good we are.”
With Saunders and Neilson, Riverton (9-3) has plenty of talent in the backcourt. The pair scored 25 of the team’s 33 points in the first half.
The game was tied at 9-9 when Saunders hit a basket and then assisted on a bucket by Ryan Edwards on a give-and-go. With 55 seconds left in the first quarter, Neilson scored a shot from the floor for a 15-9 advantage.
Saunders opened the second period with a 3-pointer and the home team’s lead ranged between six and 11 points throughout the stanza.
The signature moment for Saunders came in the second half when he drove toward the basket and lofted a left-handed shot cleanly through the twine.
“He’s so crafty. I told him the whole first half, ‘You’re only going right and they’re jumping you,’” Wilson said of his sophomore. “I saw him just flip a switch and he was ‘OK, I’m going to go left now and hit a 12-foot floater with my left hand.’ And he made it.”
The best quarter offensively for Wasatch (6-6), led by Daniel Miller’s 18 points and Brandon Maxwell’s 16, was the third quarter. But Riverton had three players — Ryan Edwards, Tristyn Hymas and Dylan Sanchez — all stroke threes in that period to offset any momentum the Wasps were making.
Wasatch defeated Dixie, the two-time defending tournament champions, in the semifinals on Friday, 56-52.
“Awesome program, awesome team. And kind of a landmark win for our team preseason,” said Wasps coach Jason Long of the semi win over the Flyers. “To build some confidence for us, that we are a good team. We can’t control everything, but we do have the ability to beat good teams.”
For the home team, or at least its coach, not playing either Dixie or Kearns in the tournament was a surprise. Kearns lost only its second game of the year in a defeat to Cottonwood in the quarterfinals.
“Wasatch is a really good team,” Wilson said. “I thought for sure we were going to face Kearns and then Dixie. Part of me wanted that, but also it’s tough to win anything.”