Lady Rebels look to future after sixth-place finish

Victoria O’Brien

The Riverside Lady Rebels have officially ended their season, placing sixth at the State 1A Basketball Championships in Casper. With a team largely compromised of underclassmen, the Rebels netted a record of 13-15 for the season.
In Casper, the Lady Rebels faced off against the Upton Bobcats on Thursday, losing 65-30, but they rose again on Friday and topped Rock River, 40-36, only to be bested by Little Snake River in a heartbreaker of a finale that ended their season, 47-45.
“We’ve played some of our best basketball the past two weeks,” said Jason Mitchell, who coaches the varsity girls. “The losses to Cokeville and Upton provided us a great gauge for where we currently stand and where we’d like to be by next year’s postseason.”
The Lady Rebels opened the tournament against the Upton Bobcats and held their own through the first quarter before losing control. By the half, the Lady Bobcats led 32-11. The Lady Rebels couldn’t recover, despite a stronger showing in the third, and were unable to control Upton’s Sophie Louderback and Bella Keller, who secured 17 and 21 points, respectively. In points, Brooklynn Paxton led with 10, followed by Varissa Olsen with eight and Johnna Clifford with seven. Vinaya VanderPloeg lent seven rebounds and Clifford chipped in two assists for the cause.
But all was not lost and the Lady Rebels returned to form on Friday against Rock River’s Lady Longhorns. Paxton led again with 13 points, followed by Clifford with eight, VanderPloeg with six, and both Bassett and Olsen with five apiece. The game moved at a relatively even pace through the first two quarters with the score at half 18-15 in favor of the Lady Rebels. In the third, the Lady Longhorns came out strong, securing 15 points to put them in the lead 30-28 heading into the fourth, but the Lady Rebels prevailed, breaking the Lady Longhorn’s offensive streak in the final quarter. The girls held the line, netting 12 points to Rock River’s six, and secured the win, 40-36, sending the Lady Rebels to Saturday’s consolation game.
“That was a big one,” Mitchell said. “Every team that goes to state hopes to play on Saturday.”
It was a tight match-up of talents, too. The Lady Rebels kept it close through all four quarters against Little Snake River with the score tied at half; things stayed even through the third before the Lady Rattlers eked out one extra basket in the fourth, putting them over the top. Paxton tied her own school record with another whopping 31 points against the Lady Rattlers. She also led in rebounds (12), followed by Vinaya VanderPloeg with 10.
“We had [them] down at the end of the consolation championship,” said Mitchell, “but we just haven’t quite learned how to finish and put teams away.”
With their season done, the Lady Rebels bid farewell to senior players Anna Stone and Teagan Kozisek. A majority of the team this year were sophomores, including Paxton, Clifford, Olsen, and Bassett, who have each alternatively dominated and grown on the court this season. Vinaya VanderPloeg, a rising senior, is also expected to return and proved pivotal in a number of plays throughout the year.
“I’m really proud of our girls,” Mitchell said while reflecting on the season. “It can be difficult to find leadership when the core of your team is made of primarily underclassmen, but by the end of the year, I felt like the team had pushed forward as a group.
“We’ll see this summer if the positivity from the end of the season will push us toward an improved off-season commitment.”
He capped off his assessment by saying, “[We are] extremely close to being a team that can compete with any opponent on any given day.”
The Riverside Lady Rebels will return next winter.

Riverside 7 4 14 5 30
Upton 9 23 15 18 65
RIVERSIDE — Kennedy Bassett 0-6 1-2 1; Brooklynn Paxton 3-9 4-7 10; Johnna Clifford 1-7 5-10 7; Vinaya VanderPloeg 1-5 0-2 2; Teagan Kozisek 0-1 0-0 0; Varissa Olsen 3-8 2-6 8; Ada Pratt 1-1 0-0 2; 30.
REBOUNDS — Riverside 35 (VanderPloeg 7). ASSISTS — Riverside 3 (Clifford 2). STEALS — Riverside 6 (VanderPloeg 4). TURNOVERS — Riverside 29.

Riverside 6 11 11 12 40
Rock River 9 6 15 6 36
RIVERSIDE — Kennedy Bassett 3-9 0-2 5; Anna Stone 0-2 0-0; Brooklynn Paxton 4-7 5-10 13; Johnna Clifford 4-26 1-4 8; Vinaya VanderPloeg 3-7 0-2 6; Varissa Olsen 1-5 3-5 5; Ada Pratt 1-3 0-0 2; 40.
THREE-POINTERS — Bassett, Clifford 1. REBOUNDS — Riverside 43 (Paxton 8). ASSISTS — Riverside 4 (Clifford 2). STEALS — Riverside 4 (Bassett, Clifford, Paxton, VanderPloeg 1). TURNOVERS — 13.

Little Snake River 10 13 11 13 47
Riverside 11 12 11 11 45
RIVERSIDE — Kennedy Bassett 2-11 0-0 4; Brooklynn Paxton 13-21 5-8 31; Johnna Clifford 1-10 4-5 6; Vinaya VanderPloeg 1-6 0-2 2; Varissa Olsen 0-5 0-0 0; Ada Pratt 1-6 0-2 2; 45.
REBOUNDS — Riverside 47 (Paxton 12). ASSISTS — Riverside 6 (Clifford 3). STEALS — Riverside 7 (Paxton 4). TURNOVERS — Riverside 20.