The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 12, 2014

Riverton to battle Rock Creek in Kansas 3A tourney opener

Luck hasn’t been on the side of the Riverton boys basketball team in its last two trips to the state tournament.

In 2007, the Rams suffered a first-round loss to Tyrel Reed’s Burlington Wildcats. Reed, who went on to earn all-Big 12 honors with the Kansas Jayhawks, scored 23 points in the 58-41 win against Riverton.

And then in 2011, Riverton met Ron Baker’s Scott City Beavers in the first round. Baker, who has been a big part of Wichita State’s 34-0 season this year as well as the Shockers’ Final Four appearance last season, scored 20 points in the 75-40 win.

Now, the Rams hope their luck is changing.

Fourth-seeded Riverton (20-2) will face fifth-seeded Rock Creek (20-3) in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament at 8:15 p.m. today in the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

“I really think we match up well with them,” Riverton coach Zach Martin said. “Our kids are confident and look forward to the challenge.”

Riverton, which shared the CNC title with 2A state qualifier St. Mary’s-Colgan, enters the tournament on a 10-game win streak. The Rams’ only losses were to Oklahoma powerhouse Douglass and the Girard Trojans, who qualified for the 4A Division II state tournament.

“I think one of the big reasons we are where we’re at is that our guys have played well together,” Martin said. “There hasn’t been any ego or jealousy. They have the mentality that it’s our shot, not my shot. As long as the Rams get two points for the basket, then we’re in good shape.”

Junior guard Landon North leads the Rams with 16.9 points and 3.8 assists per game. He scored 26 in Saturday’s sub-state championship win against Caney Valley.

“He’s got a competitor’s spirit,” Martin said. “When it’s on the line, he wants the ball is in his hands. And I think everyone has confidence in him when the ball is in his hands. But I don’t think he gets enough credit for the way he sees people and gets other people involved. He has a good mindset of when it’s time to take over, but he also gets everybody involved.”

Landon’s younger cousin, Grant North, a 6-foot-5 sophomore post, averages 16.3 points and 7.9 rebounds.

“Grant can impact the game in a lot of ways,” Martin said. “He does a good job rebounding and altering shots. There are times I’d like for him to be more aggressive and take it to the basket. He’s a great kid, and he’s almost too nice sometimes. But when he gets going, he’s hard to contain.”

Riverton also gets help from several role players. Seniors Chandler Underhill and Jacob Qualls, juniors Gavin Forbes and Logan Edwards and sophomores Dalton Weaver and Austin Brown also are key in the Rams’ rotation.

“We have five guys on the floor who can score at any time,” Landon North said.

Martin said seniors Jacob Montee, Andy McDonald and Andrew Pennington have been good leaders.

“They don’t get a whole lot of time, but I really give credit to those guys for a lot of our success,” Martin said. “As seniors, they could have blown this thing up from the inside out by complaining about playing time, but they haven’t. They come to practice every day and try to make the team better.”

Rock Creek was eighth in the latest KBCA Class 3A rankings.

Martin said the Mustangs have good height and have players who can shoot well from the perimeter.

But North and Underhill said they are determined to make this a successful weekend.

“We want to win state,” Underhill said. “Like coach said, we’re not here to make this an event. It’s a business trip.”

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