Rebels facing difficult opener

Nathan Oster

The Riverside Rebels will head to Upton later this week for three games at the Bobcat Invitational, starting with a matchup against the state-runner ups at 2 p.m. Friday.  That will be followed by games against 2A Sundance at 5 p.m. and against Arvada Clearmont at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Coach Scott Winters has a roster of 19 players which includes four seniors, seven juniors, three sophomores and five freshmen.  
We have several new players at each grade level that haven’t played a lot of basketball,” he said. “We have spent a lot of time working on the fundamentals such as dribbling, passing, defensive positioning, and understanding the game.
“We devote a lot of practice time to shooting and conditioning. With our experience and depth not being strong, we will need a lot of leadership from our returning players, and our new guys will have to continue to come to practice focused and ready to go.”
The Rebels have six returning lettermen in seniors Josh Wildman and Hayden Paxton, juniors Avery Clifford, Ryder Kozisek and Wyatt Daly-Patterson and junior Hyson Hill.
“They’ll get the majority of the minutes,” Winters said. “We plan to play fast and have a lot of full court defense so our conditioning will be key. We have some great shooters and a lot of these guys put in lots of time this summer, so I think they’ll be ready to go.”
Rounding out the varsity roster to start the year are senior Cooper Zierolf, junior Matthew Brown, sophomore Paul Stone and freshmen Gavyn Cervantes and Elias Jensen.
“We would like to have a deeper bench and have several players that will be given opportunities off the bench to prove themselves and see how they’ll fit in the rotation and if they’re ready to play varsity basketball.
“I’ve been impressed with several of them in practice and know they are capable to step up in games.”
The other players on this year’s roster include senior Logan Saldana, juniors Jon Mendenhall and Ethan Olsen, sophomores Oliver Nordberg and Mason Brown and freshmen Alan Landis, Corbyn Godfrey and Dawson Scott.
The Rebels finished 3-20 overall and 1-7 in conference play last season.  Paxton led the team in scoring, averaging 9.6 points per game. Wildman wasn’t far behind, averaging 7.4 rpg.

Opening week
The Rebels didn’t draw an easy opener. The Bobcats went 21-5 last year, coming up a little short in their bid for a state title with a loss to Burlington in the championship game.  “They didn’t really graduate any of their main guys so it will be a big test for us,” said Winters. “I’ve told the boys it will be good to give us an opportunity to see where we need to be to compete with the best teams in 1A.
Winters added that Sundance, a 2A school, “is always very tough,” but that he doesn’t know as much about Saturday’s opponent, Arvada-Clearmont.
“Early in the season the main focus is to figure out rotations, give everyone opportunities, build chemistry and get in shape,” he said. “We want to be a complete team that has defined roles and everyone is pushing each other to be their best.”