Riverton erased a 6-5 deficit with a 19-0 run and the Wolverines routed defending state champion Worland 62-34 on Saturday to win the Wyoming State High School Class 3A Boys Basketball Championship and capture the program’s first state title.
“It feels so good to end (this season) the right way,” said Riverton senior Easton Paxton, who finished with 13 points. “It was tough to put all the emotions from last night’s game behind us, but once we did that we were able to relax and have fun.”
Paxton was referring to Friday night’s emotional 52-49 victory over Douglas, in what many were calling the de facto state championship game.
Worland led 6-5 after 6-foot-8 Cody Baumstarck scored inside. After that, though, it was all Riverton.
The Wolverines (28-1) took the lead for good on a 3-pointer from Kylan Shultz. Then 6-8 junior Soloman VanDellen, who was forced into action when starting center Ridge McCoy suffered a knee injury at last week’s West Regional, scored on two put-backs and added a short baseline jumper off an assist from Brady Fullerton.
VanDellen, who had scored just 15 points all season, finished with eight.
“Sol is the MVP,” senior Teron Doebele said. “He played his butt off. He works hard every day in practice and ... it was awesome.”
VanDellen gave the Wolverines the inside presence they needed against Baumstarck, and they never backed down from challenging him at the rim.
That was evidenced by back-to-back drives to the rim from Paxton and Doebele to open the second quarter as Riverton extended its lead to 24-6.
“Riverton is a great team,” Worland coach Aaron Abel said. “They did a good job of attacking the rim and I think they were due for a game like this.”
Worland never got closer than 16 points as Riverton not only scored at the rim, but also from distance. The Wolverines were 9 of 19 on 3-pointers, with Paxton and Shultz both knocking down three.
The second half was more of the same, with Riverton putting together a 9-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to remove any doubt about the final outcome.
Fullerton was asked when it finally sunk in that the Wolverines were state champions.
“When the starters walked off the floor with about a minute and a half left,” he said. “I just looked at the guys and said, ‘We did it.’”