Rich Rebels run win streak to four games

Rich Rebel Jaidyn Groll hits the floor with a Cokeville player in a fight for the ball during last Thurday’s 62-42 win over the Panthers. Rich has won four games in a row, and will look to add to that total with three games this weekend, including Region 22 rival Manila. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

The Rich High School boys’ basketball team have been on a roll since returning to the court after the holidays, winning five of six games since returning to action earlier this month.

The Rebels went 3-0 last weekend to run their current win streak to four games, with wins over Cokeville and Region 22 rivals Tabiona and Intermountain Christian. With an 8-4 record, Rich is now ranked No. 3 in the state in 1A, according to the latest RPI rankings.

“We had a great weekend — things are coming together better, and guys are understanding what’s being asked of them, and are thriving,” said Rich head coach Lex Cornia. “Especially the game at Tabiona — that’s a very difficult place to play. And when you’re down nine at half, it’s a place where you don’t usually climb out of that hole. That’s a very disciplined and skilled basketball team, so for us to come back, it was an incredible effort.”

Asked whether he puts any stock in RPI rankings at this point in the season, Cornia said — while rankings are important, and a reflection of the team’s hard work — a spot in the Top 3 will be a target on the Rebels’ back, as they can expect each opponent to give their best effort.

“It’s impossible for guys not to get on and look,” Cornia said about the RPI rankings. “It’s what they use to seed state, so it’s important. It’s as high as Rich has been ranked in the last few years, and I think it’s something the guys aren’t accustomed to. Your level of intensity and accountability has to increase to be able to deal with that. You’re no longer the underdog, looking uphill — you’re getting everybody’s best effort.”

“We told the guys that this is a preliminary ranking — we still have quite a few games to go,” he added. “It’s a great accomplishment, but at the same time, you can’t fall in love with a number at the end of January. The numbers that matter happen in Richfield at the end of the season.”

The Rebels have a busy weekend scheduled, beginning on the road at Mount Vernon (9-3) on Thursday. Rich will be back home Friday to host Manila (8-3), then will travel to Orem Saturday for a rematch against Telos (6-3).

“It’s another three-game swing for us this week, and hopefully we’re adjusted and used to it by now,” Cornia said. “Each of these teams bring a different challenge — I don’t know if we could find three more different teams.”

Manila was the top seed heading into the 1A State Tournament last year, and Cornia said the rivalry between the two teams has always been intense.

“Manila is very system-oriented, and they execute very well,” Cornia said. “What they do, they do very, very well. They’re a regional rival for us, and we definitely have a history with them — there’s been some great games between Rich and Manila over the past 50 years, and I don’t expect anything different. They have some really nice pieces, and they’ve won some big games. That will be a big test.”

Rebels 62, Cokeville 42

In their final game before starting region play, the Rebels started fast against Cokeville and never looked back, cruising to a 62-42 win.

“Against Cokeville, we had the best start that we’ve had all season,” Cornia said. “Cokeville is a very good team — for us to jump out to a 19-5 lead, that’s the energy that it takes. We just rode that momentum the rest of the night.”

Three Rich players finished the game in double digits, led by Logan Muirbrook with 15 points. Konner Greer followed with 14 points — including three 3-pointers — while John Scott chipped in 10. Riley Taylor and Truman Huefener finished with seven points and six points, respectively.

“With Cokeville, every time they tried to take away the perimeter, we’d get the ball inside,” Cornia said. “When they tried to focus more on Logan Muirbrook and Riley Taylor and Riley Carillo in the interior, those guys made great reads and kicked it back out, and we made shots. That’s a strength that not many teams have, and Truman Huefener is someone you always have to account for, as well.”

Muirbrook led the team in rebounds with seven, followed by Greer, Huefener, Riley Carrillo and Taylor with four apiece.

“Our start to that game — and the energy and the intensity that guys brought — the story of that game was told in the first six minutes,” Cornia said. “We’re very balanced, and I think guys have realized we’re best playing inside-out. Teams can’t take away everything from us — they take away a couple of things, and when they do, we adjust and go to the thing they can’t take away.”

Rebels 48, Tabiona 44

The Rebels opened Region 22 play Friday on the road at Tabiona, overcoming a 9-point deficit at halftime to win 48-44 in overtime.

“In the Tabiona game, we weren’t able to get the ball inside as much,” Cornia said. “They did a good job of playing our posts, so we started passing out and hitting a few shots to climb back in.”

Asked what he told the team in the locker room at the break, Cornia said he told his players to believe in themselves, and each other.

“We knew that there’s no 9-point play — you have to chip away a point at a time,” he explained. “The first three minutes of the third quarter would tell the story of the rest of the game, and guys just bought in and believed. There’s been some really good Rich teams that have gone to Tabiona and lost — they’re so tough on their home floor. Guys just always believed.”

The Rebels again had three players in double digits, led by John Scott with 14 points. Konner Greer and Logan Muirbrook netted 10 points each, while Riley Taylor and Riley Carrillo chipped in six points apiece.

Greer pulled down a team-high seven boards, while Muirbrook and Scott grabbed six apiece.

“We knew that it was going to be another defensive game — we struggled to make shots, especially early,” Cornia said. “But in that second half, we played a little faster. We had 12 points that came directly off rebounds, outlets or steals. It speaks to how far this group has come, and I still believe their best is ahead of them.”

Rebels 77, ICS 46

The Rebels closed out the weekend at home Saturday against another Region 22 opponent, Intermountain Christian. The Lions were unable to find an answer for Rich sharpshooter John Scott, who drained seven 3-pointers, en route to a game-high 30 points in the 77-46 win.

“ICS is definitely rebuilding — they were one of the top teams in the state last year, but they graduated a lot of kids. They play hard, and they have some quality wins. The first half was turning into a 3-point contest, and they were on pace in the first quarter to score 70 points. We challenged guys at the end of the first, and they responded. When we locked down, we made it very difficult for them to get looks, and we held them in the 40s. The defensive focus in that game was incredible, especially after the first quarter.”

Konner Greer recorded a double-double, netting 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds; he also tied for the team lead in assists with Truman Huefner, dishing off six. Riley Taylor also finished with 13 points, while Logan Muirbrook chipped in 11.

“What I liked most about that game, is that we really were balanced,” Cornia said. “ICS would try to react and adjust to where the ball was going, and we would just kick it one more pass and find the open guy.”

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