RIVERTON — Before Tuesday's Region 3 rivalry game against third-ranked Bingham, Riverton coach Steve Galley talked about how every game between these two teams seems to come down to the very end.
He could not have been more right.
Jordan Phouthavong scored a career-high 32 points and Sean Larsen blocked the potential game-tying attempt as Bingham held on for the thrilling 63-60 victory.
"JP (Phouthavong) was inspired tonight, made big shots early and we ran some stuff for him, gave him some good looks. He played tremendously," said Bingham coach Mark Dubach.
One of Phouthavong's big early shots was his first 3-pointer of the game that capped an impressive 13-2 run to start the contest. Bingham's stingy defense, which is designed to funnel opposing players into blocking machine Larsen, led to blocks and easy transition baskets for the Miners as they seized a 17-5 lead at the end of the first period.
Five of Riverton's first seven possessions ended in a turnover.
"We weren’t ready to play, and that's my fault,” Galley said. "I did not have our team mentally ready to play. Our terrible offense led to their great offense. They just killed us in transition."
Not finding Bingham’s shooters in transition became a major problem for Riverton.
With 4:31 left in the second quarter and Bingham leading 25-17, Phouthavong put on a 3-point clinic by hitting four 3-pointers in a span of 1:54 to push the Bingham lead to 37-18.
Bingham coasted to a 40-23 halftime lead.
“I came into this game fired up,” Phouthavong said. “I just wanted to help my team win and if it meant make shots then when I got my chance I was going to hit them. I just needed confidence.”
“He had some wide-open shots and he is a great shooter,” Galley said. “It surprised me he didn’t score 40.”
Without the shooting of Riverton senior guard Breiden Gamble, who contributed 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting from three during the first half, the game could have been much worse.
Having to overcome a 17-deficit against a team with a white-hot shooter seemed like a daunting task facing the Silverwolves. However, Riverton slowly chipped away at the lead in unconventional ways.
The small Riverton guards, who had been swatted away multiple times in the first half, kept aggressively attacking the 6-foot-8-inch Larsen and they began to have some success. Riverton guard D McCleary and forward Bronson Schroeder helped cut the deficit to 12 by the end of the third quarter.
Riverton began the fourth quarter on a 10-5 run, which culminated with a 3-pointer from Stephan Holm. The shot ignited the home crowd and forced Bingham to call timeout for the first time all game after Riverton whittled the lead down to seven at 57-50.
Riverton continued its furious comeback as Holm once again hit a 3-pointer, cutting the lead to 61-58 with 1:07 to play. After Bingham failed to capitalize on its free throws, Riverton trailed 62-60 with eight seconds left and had the ball.
Riverton inbounded the ball to Holm who attacked the basket only to have Larsen come away with the last of his game-high five blocks to seal the win for the Miners.
“I was thinking don’t foul, don’t foul and just keep your hands up,” Larsen said. “But he drifted away just enough that I decided I had enough room to go ahead and block it.”
“I thought we had two really good teams, both teams played good defense, both teams were able to make big shots,” Dubach said. “We think they are a great program so we are happy to come out of here with a win.”
With the win Bingham improves to 7-2 in Region 3 and 14-4 overall. The Miners finish up their home region schedule Friday against Herriman and then travel to West Jordan next week in a game that could decide the region championship.
“All we are thinking about is Herriman on Friday,” Dubach said.
Riverton falls to 6-2 in Region 3 and 12-5 overall, and it will host West Jordan Friday.
McCleary led a balanced Riverton attack with 14 points, while Gamble and Holm each contributed 13 and Schroeder added 12. Bingham’s Logan Parker also scored in double digits with 11.
Jackson Peck is a proud father of four, a former SUU football player as well as a high school football coach.