‘Different’ Riverton wins back-and-forth nail biter over Copper Hills in overtimeFeb 03, 2023 11:49AM ● By Travis Barton
Senior Logan Dunfield nailed two free throws at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, where he would score the game winner. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
“That was a fun one, that’s what high school basketball is supposed to be about, that was fun.”
That was Riverton High boys basketball coach Skyler Wilson’s unsolicited description of the nail-biting, momentum swinging game shortly after the Silverwolves capped a gritty 71-68 victory over Copper Hills Friday night.
In a tight game throughout that saw multiple lead changes in the fourth quarter and overtime, it was the Silverwolves that pulled out the win in an intense, physical contest between Region 3 opponents.
“It was just a battle back and forth,” Wilson said. “Two teams that I think have a lot of skill, but the best thing that both of us do are defense and hustle plays so it was going to be that kind of game and that’s what it turned into.”
Copper Hills led by six at one point in the second half but it was as big a lead as each team would have. The two teams combined for 42 free throw attempts in a physical encounter that saw every inside attempt challenged at the rim. In the final seconds of regulation, the Grizzlies held a two-point cushion when Riverton’s last second shot was rebounded by senior Logan Dunfield and fouled on the putback.
Dunfield, an SUU football signee, sank both free throws to send the game to overtime despite an inadvertent horn and a Copper Hills timeout to try and ice him. Free throws are an area he struggled with early in the season, Wilson said, but Dunfield is the kind of player to put in the extra work at practice.
“Logan is a three-year starter for us, multisport athlete. Kids like that, it’s not even about the shooting or anything, it’s just kinda about the heart,” Wilson said. “So proud of him for that, stepping up and making two big, big free throws.”
After an up-tempo start to overtime saw both teams trade a few buckets, Riverton found themselves with the ball and 23 seconds left. Riverton were in a similar situation against Pleasant Grove two weeks ago and Wilson said they called a timeout to try and set up a play rather than let it unfold on the court. A choice coaches deal with all the time.
“You’re always trying to reflect as a coach what’s working, what’s the best thing,” he said. “And what it came down to for me: if you really trust your team, let them figure it out.”
Wilson chose not to call a timeout this time and after the “broken play” resulted in an unbalanced shot, Dunfield came to the rescue again, grabbing another offensive rebound for the putback.
Fans rushed the court to celebrate before officials put .6 seconds back on the clock, delaying the celebrations a little longer.
“We could’ve drawn up the play and maybe it would’ve been perfect, but in that game it was going to be some ugly shot and then offensive rebound and a throw in to win it. It was just perfect for us,” Wilson said.
Dunfield finished with a team-high 18 points while the team’s leading scorer Jaxon Kerekes added 17 points.
At press time, the victory moved Riverton to 12-4 overall and 3-0 in region that also included a tight 74-72 win over Herriman.
“There’s a lot of teams that can beat each other (in our region),” Wilson said. “I feel like we gotta bring it every night. That's good, that's fun, that makes for nights like tonight. I think it'll make us better as a team which is what you're trying to do especially as you get closer to the end of the year.”
The victory also further cements a feeling by Wilson and the squad that there’s something unique about this group, describing them as a “coach’s dream.”
“These guys just feel like a different kind of team,” Wilson said. “They’re just a different group. They’re so together, they don’t worry about who scores the most points, they cheer for each other. They just try to stay within their roles to help our team and they want to win and they do whatever they need to and find a way. For me, that’s what you want as a coach.”
Combined with the comradery is what’s happening on the court. Wilson said it starts with their “bash brothers” Dunfield and Zach Edwards. Both are multisport athletes with Dunfield headed to play tight end at SUU and Edwards a star on the baseball diamond, committed to Oregon State.
“Everything we do starts with those guys, they really bring the intensity,” Wilson said. “It’s not always a thing of beauty with those two, but that’s what I love about them. We call them the bash brothers, because it’s kind of how it is, they mix it up inside.”
Kerekes, who ranked eighth in state history last year for his 91.8% free throw percentage (he’s only missed two so far this season), helps carry the scoring load. “He’s just a really skilled, talented kid offensively,” Wilson said.
Wilson also highlighted senior Stratton Johnson who often takes the defensive assignment of guarding the opponent’s best scorer, as well as Kobe Nielsen and Kaden Allred (who played key minutes off the bench against Copper Hills).
“It’s been super fun to coach them,” he said.