Final FourMar 8, 2013 By Steven R. Peck
It's been years since Riverton's boys
have made it; Lander's are there, too
It has been many years since the Riverton Wolverines have found themselves in the position they will be in Friday night.
The RHS boys have made Wyoming's "Final Four," the semifinals of the Class 4-A state high school basketball tournament.
The state tournament environment is fun, exciting and tense all at the same time. For those accustomed to seeing the team only on its home court, there is a sense of oddity in seeing the uniformed boys taking the court somewhere else, against a team we don't normally identify as an opponent.
In Thursday's opening game that feeling was magnified by the presence of the foe from Cheyenne -- not Cheyenne East nor Cheyenne Central, but Cheyenne South, a school that has only existed for three years and which was making its first-ever appearance in the state tournament.
Riverton was too much for South on Thursday night -- too big, too fast, too experienced, too strong and too talented -- and won the game going away. Only a late 3-pointer by one of the South sharpshooters kept the final margin under 20 points.
The Riverton win sets up the state semifinal game Friday night against the team that is every class 4-A school's competitive arch enemy, the might Gillette Camels. To them, making the semifinals is customary.
As long as it's been since Riverton made the final four, it might be just as long since Gillette didn't do it. Year after year, the line to the state championship seems to form behind Gillette.
But they can be beaten. Evanston did it last year. Lander's boys beat supposedly unbeatable Douglas in the Class 3-A opener earlier in the day. The giants sometimes fall. The Wolverines will try to be the giant killers Friday night in the late game at the Casper Events Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m., and it probably will be a little later than that once all the delays from the day's earlier games take their toll on the last one.
Riverton's appearance is far from a fluke. The Wolverines entered the tournament as one of the two top contenders for the state championship (with Gillette). It's something the Wolverine boys have never won.
Friday's game is the one everyone wants to see. The two best teams are meeting with a lot on the line. It would be better if it were for the state championship rather than the semifinals, but Riverton's unexpected wobble in the 4-A West regional last week requires the two titans to meet in the semis.
No matter. Conventional wisdom has it that the Wolverines would have to face Gillette, and win, to claim the state championship. That is the task, whenever it happens. Our team will be on the court, with a chance. We can't ask for more than that.
Lander's presence in the 3-A semifinals, both boys and girls, adds to the county interest on this end and to the county's presence in Casper. Fremont County basketball is representing us well this week.
Having a good contingent of parents, cheerleaders, schoolmates and general basketball fans on hand for the tournament games in Casper greatly enhances a team's morale. RHS sent an activity bus for Thursday's opener against Cheyenne South, and the local crowd was sizable and vocal. Rest assured, Gillette will have a large, loud, purple-clad population of its own at the Casper Events Center.
If the Wolverines advance to the state title game, how about packing up the band to make some noise for that game as well? South had its band there on Thursday, and it added greatly to the atmosphere.
Driving to Casper on a winter night isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, but if it's possible for you to be there, the kids will thrive on your support.