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South Valley Riverton Journal

Young Riverton girls basketball team confident it can defy expectations

Dec 01, 2023 11:02AM ● By Josh McFadden

Faythe Stauffer led the Silverwolves in scoring last year and returns this season as a junior. (City Journals)

With only two returning players with varsity experience on a Riverton girls basketball team that went 11-11 last season, projections aren’t lofty for the 2023–24 campaign. 

But that isn’t deterring the Silverwolves. 

Riverton is eager to compete this season despite having a bunch of new faces in the lineup. Head coach Jonathan Haag acknowledges the early part of the season could have some rough patches as his players get accustomed to one another and playing at a higher level. But he is confident the team will gel and get better as the season progresses. He has high hopes that the Silverwolves can surprise some people and advance at state. 

“I think we are going to outperform the preseason rankings pretty easily,” he said. “Our goals for this season are to be top three in region and to make it to at least the third round of the state playoffs.”

Last season, Riverton placed fourth in Region 3 with a 4-6 record. The team lost to region rival Herriman in the second round of the Class 6A tournament. 

Riverton’s top returners are junior guard Faythe Stauffer and senior guard Emmalee Christiansen. Stauffer paced the team in scoring last season with 12.4 points per game. She also knocked down 18 three-pointers and averaged 4.7 rebounds and nearly two steals a game. Christiansen averaged 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season. Lots of newcomers will fill the roles left by those players who graduated after last season. Sophomore post player Maggie Hamblin, senior forward Savannah Drury, sophomore guard Halle Talbot and sophomore guard Gabby Murdoch will be major contributors this season. Haag is also excited about senior post player Ashley Halladay and junior forward Ella Lange.

Haag is impressed with his team’s camaraderie as well as how the seniors have taken younger players under their wings to build team unity. 

“This varsity group understands the game well, is gritty and plays really well together,” he said. “I haven't been around a team with such a high quality of leadership before. The seniors have done an unbelievable job of leading and helping develop offseason chemistry, and it's showing up in practice every day.”

The Silverwolves should be a tough defensive team. Last season, Riverton allowed just under 50 points per game. 

“Our defense is tough, gritty and going to be our strength and will keep us in games, regardless of how highly ranked our opponents are,” he said. “We are quick, alert, physical and committed to the defensive end, which is just going to make the offensive end even easier. The girls really like each other and celebrate each other’s success as well, which shows up in every facet of their game. For us to reach our top potential, we need to limit turnovers and be willing to make plays for our teammates.”

Along with breaking in some new players, Riverton faces some other stiff challenges. The Silverwolves will play in Region 2 alongside some excellent teams: Bingham, Copper Hills, Corner Canyon, Herriman and Mountain Ridge. Haag said his players will need to be tough, determined and courageous to be successful.

“Our region is loaded, and every team has a chance to be a top-two team in region and even ranked top five in all of 6A,” he said. “So, we will have to be on our toes every single game. Every team poses a different challenge (Herriman's shooting, Mountain Ridge's press, Bingham's physicality and attack, Corner Canyon’s length and athleticism, Copper Hills’ experience, physical play, defense and talent), and with our lack of varsity experience, it will be a difficult challenge to be able to answer all of those challenges. To get it done, we have to come together, embrace our own identity and not back down from anyone.”

The Silverwolves opened the season Nov. 21 at home against Roy. Region action gets underway Jan. 11 at Corner Canyon. Haag and his players can’t wait to get started. 

“I've been in awe with how hungry this group is to compete, improve and to ultimately win,” he said. “I look forward to practice every day because they hold each other accountable, look forward to the challenge and are asking to be held to a higher standard than the day before.” λ