Alta fans took great delight when Riverton’s Bryce Stone missed badly on his first 3-point attempt during Thursday’s quarterfinals of the 5A boys state tournament at the Maverik Center.
From that point on, every time Stone touched the basketball, Alta’s cheering section gleefully chanted “Air-ball! Air-ball! Air-ball!”
Well, Stone certainly got the last laugh. The 6-foot-4 junior drilled a pair of huge fourth-quarter 3s that fueled the Silverwolves’ decisive surge down the stretch, as they turned a 40-30 deficit at the end of the third quarter into a stunning 65-57 victory that vaulted Riverton into Friday night’s semifinals against Brighton.
“I airballed my first 3,” Stone said. “But I kept my head in it and I’ve been hitting 3s all season long, so I knew I could do it if I just kept my head in it.”
His point guard, D McCleary, didn’t completely agree with his teammate’s assessment.
“I’ve been giving him crap because he hasn’t hit a 3 in awhile,” said McCleary, who poured in 28 points in the Silverwolves’ come-from-behind win.
Stone was not fazed by the Alta fans’ derisive cheers, which continued throughout the game — even after Stone struck his two big bombs from long range and the ‘Wolves had taken the lead.
“It felt really good ’cause … I just let the fans talk,” he said. “That’s not my game, I don’t talk very much. I just let the fans do the talking.
“Me, personally, I just love having a point guard that can step it up under pressure,” he said of McCleary. “He always just steps up his game.”