Wolverine boys reload for new hoops campaignDec 6, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher
At first glance, it might seem as if the encore for the Riverton Wolverine boys basketball team this season might be a difficult one.
Not so fast.
Eight months removed from the conclusion of the best RHS basketball season ever - a 28-1 record and the first state championship in team history, the Wolverines do face basketball life having lost all five starters from the class 3-A title team, plus two important bench contributors, all departed via cap and gown.
There's also the matter of the departure of last year's head coach, Stuart Mullins, who left Wolverine Gym to take the job at cross-county, archrival Lander Valley High School.
That does sound like a lot, but the Wolverines still aren't feeling all that bad about the season that starts tomorrow at the Casper Invitational tournament at Kelly Walsh High School.
Riverton plays host Kelly Walsh at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the new KW gym, then meets Jackson at noon Friday on the same floor. RHS faces Evanston at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Casper College to complete the weekend. All three opponents are Class 4-A teams and Kelly Walsh is the defending 4-A state champ.
First-year head coach Beau Sheets was part of the successful mentoring structure under both Mullins and Dick Quayle, whose Wolverines played for the class 4-A state championship in 2013 with both Mullins and Sheets on the bench as assistant coaches. Sheets also tasted local success as a head coach in his own right, taking the Wind River Cougars close to the Class 2-A mountaintop in the Class 2-A racks a few years earlier. He also was head coach at a Class 4-A school in Kansas prior to his arrival in Wyoming.
"When you're coming off what was the best year you've had, it's tough to compare yourselves to that," Sheets said, "and you don't like to do that anyway from one class to the next. We lost of lot of good players, and some of the experience component will be missing.
"But we are excited about the talent that we have. We are very optimistic.
Sheets takes the RHS team into the new season with three key returners from last year's state champs. Junior guard Treyton Paxton, who saw the most minutes off the bench last year as a sophomore, and senior Ridge McCoy, healthy again after a mid-season knee injury sidelined him last year, figure to lead the 2018-19 attack. Lining up with the 6-foot-5 McCoy in the starting lineup is 6-8 senior post Solomon Van Dellen, remembered fondly for his show-stopping performance in last season's state-championship game. Van Dellen, relatively little-used during the regular season, squared off against Worland all-stater Cody Baumstarck and largely neutralize the Warriors star as Riverton dropped to a 62-34 victory at the Casper
Sheets said he looks forward to having the two big men in the lineup together.
"Ridge is looking good after the injury," Sheets said. "He did a lot of hard work over the summer in to his rehab, and we a really depending on him. We'll definitely have him on the floor together with Solly. We're counting on using our height , trying to minimize other teams's speed.
Senior guard Jaren Draper a junior varsity stand out all season for Riverton, logged quality minutes on the varsity for last year as well. He'll join Paxton in the starting backcourt. Guards Cody Frazier and Kellen Miller add to depth in the backcourt.
"We've got some good guard skills," said Sheets. "We won't be the quickest, but we'll have good ball handling. We'll be counting on Treyton to score.
Sheets mentioned senior swingman Chace Garcia as the likely fifth starter. Garcia can play any position in the lineup.
JV coach Pat Patterson returns to the Riverton bench, with former head coach Dick Quayle handling the Wolverine freshmen.