It’s all smiles for WRV boys in hoop quarterfinal

White River Valley’s Joey Ferris and his teammates celebrate their 84-49 quarterfinal win over Richford in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. The Wildcats advance to the VPA D-III semifinals in Barre, Vt., on Thursday night, facing Thetford. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley’s Joey Ferris and his teammates celebrate their 84-49 quarterfinal win over Richford in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. The Wildcats advance to the VPA D-III semifinals in Barre, Vt., on Thursday night, facing Thetford. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Geoff Hansen

White River Valley’s Tattin Griffin, right, is tangled up with Richford’s Jerrick Jacobs while vying for the ball in front of Richford’s bench during their VPA D-III quarterfinal in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. The Wildcats won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley’s Tattin Griffin, right, is tangled up with Richford’s Jerrick Jacobs while vying for the ball in front of Richford’s bench during their VPA D-III quarterfinal in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. The Wildcats won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

White River Valley head coach D.J. Craven huddles up with his team during a timeout against Richford in the VPA D-III quarterfinals in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. White River Valley won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley head coach D.J. Craven huddles up with his team during a timeout against Richford in the VPA D-III quarterfinals in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. White River Valley won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

White River Valley’s Braden White (32) prepares to grab a rebound between Richford’s Robert Gendron (25) and Will Steinhour during their VPA D-III quarterfinal in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. The Wildcats won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley’s Braden White (32) prepares to grab a rebound between Richford’s Robert Gendron (25) and Will Steinhour during their VPA D-III quarterfinal in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. The Wildcats won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

White River Valley’s Wyatt Cadwell drives the ball upcourt against Richford’s Jerrick Jacobs during their VPA D-III quarterfinal in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. In the background is Joey Ferris. The Wildcats won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley’s Wyatt Cadwell drives the ball upcourt against Richford’s Jerrick Jacobs during their VPA D-III quarterfinal in South Royalton, Vt., on Feb. 24, 2024. In the background is Joey Ferris. The Wildcats won, 84-49. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-25-2024 3:14 PM

Modified: 02-28-2024 9:35 AM


SOUTH ROYALTON — Any spectator wanting to re-enter Saturday night’s VPA Division III boys basketball quarterfinal game between No. 3 White River Valley and No. 6 Richford got a smiley face inked on the back of one hand.

The majority of those in a standing-room crowd left grinning broadly after the host Wildcats’ 84-49 victory propelled them into Thursday’s semifinals at the Barre Auditorium for the second time in three years.

“There’s nothing better than playing in front of fans who are screaming your name,” said Wildcats guard Brayden Russ, who led his team with 20 points. “The support you feel when you do something well is next level, and it makes you want to try even harder.”

WRV’s Zander Clark had 17 points, Braden White had 11 and Joey Farris had 10. Donavan Craven and Tattin Griffin each chipped in nine points. Jerrick Jacobs led the visitors with 12.

Third-seeded WRV next faces second-seeded Thetford, a 64-31 quarterfinal victor over BFA-Fairfax.

The Wildcats (20-2) and Panthers (19-3) did not collide during the regular season. Many on both basketball teams, however, clashed in last spring’s division baseball final, won by TA.

Richford (17-5) committed an eye-popping 12 turnovers during the first quarter, after which it trailed, 22-9. By halftime, the score was 47-23 and the visitors had coughed up the rock another 10 times.

“We brought a lot of energy with our press and got hands in places a lot of people don’t,” said Craven, a WRV forward. “If you see a player running, you go after him and try and beat him to the ball.”

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Said WRV coach D.J. Craven: “I think our size got to them a little bit. We threw them a curveball by using a 1-2-2 press instead of our usual bread and butter, which is a 2-2-1.”

The Wildcats figure to face a stiffer test on Thursday. Like every team that reaches the Aud, White River Valley will have to overcome feelings of just being happy to compete on that vaunted stage.

“The environment’s second to none in Vermont basketball,” said Russ, who played there two years ago. “You can barely hear your teammates when they’re five feet from you because of the yelling and cheering and screaming. It’s sort of beautiful chaos.”

Asked how he’d get his players amped up but not overexcited, D.J. Craven said he hadn’t yet contemplated that challenge. However, he said he’d discuss it with them when they were, as usual, at his nearby house between the end of classes and the start of practices this week.

Because some Wildcats live a considerable distance from school and practices often don’t begin until 6 p.m. or later, the Craven home serves as a sort of feeding ground, often supplied by team parents’ donations. The teens are tasked with bringing in cordwood and stoking the fire.

“People are always dropping off burgers or garlic bread, and we go through an ungodly amount of chocolate milk,” the coach said. “My wife (Kirby) is a saint, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I used to ask guys what they’d had for dinner, and they’d say a bag of chips. That’s unacceptable, because I consider them my family.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.