Standing a towering 7-foot-3, Riley Sorn always looked the part of a dominant high school basketball player.
Now, Richland’s junior forward is starting to play like it.
“It was probably third or fourth grade I started playing rec ball,” Sorn said. “I was always taller, and always really uncoordinated, not good with my feet. I was horrible.
“It was freshman year I actually started to get good with my feet, and then it’s just kind of been honing in my skills. It’s been nice because this year it’s been my chance to kind of use those on the floor; what I’ve been learning the past couple years.”
That coordination and athleticism runs in the Sorn family. Riley’s mom, Jennifer (6-foot-2), played basketball at Boise State University; his dad, Andy (6-6), played baseball at Treasure Valley Community College; and his older sister, Gia (6-2), is a freshman on the North Idaho College basketball team, and was a first team All-Mid-Columbia Conference forward for Richland last season.
Riley Sorn coming into his athletic potential has seemingly coincided with the MCC champion Bombers (17-4) ascending to greatness this season. And his growing confidence might have as much to do with that as anything strictly basketball related.
“I just feel a lot better playing,” Sorn said. “I felt a lot better with the team and everything like that from the start.”
From the outside looking in, the Bombers seem like an odd fit for the conference’s tallest player (by a half foot). They perennially lead the league in scoring (this year averaging 75.7 points per game), and achieve that by running an offense that thrives in transition led by sharp-shooting guards like Steven Beo (now at BYU) and Landon Radliff (Walla Walla Community College).
But Sorn has figured out how to thrive in Richland’s offense — and, coach Earl Streufert said, the team has figured out how best to use him. He’s averaging 12.9 pointsper game to go with 8.2 rebounds and an incredible 3.8 blocks a game. His defense has continued to be dominant with 11 blocks in Richland’s two playoff games.
“Riley’s changed his approach, and he’s pretty good in the full court now,” Streufert said. “He’s not the one key for us to win, but if he plays well on both sides of the court, he makes us a much better basketball team.”
Sorn had one of his first breakout performances at the end of December against the team the Bombers will host Friday in the MCC/Greater Spokane League sub-regional championship. Poor shooting hampered Richland in that home 79-51 loss to GSL champ Gonzaga Prep on Dec. 27, but Sorn was the game’s second-leading scorer with 13 points, and he had a game-high five blocks.
After the loss, Streufert praised Sorn, saying, “He showed good toughness. His game is improving; the rest of us got to support him a little better.”
The rest of the team seemed to answer that call.
Richland nearly knocked off Central Valley two nights later, falling 69-68, and has since won 12 of 13 games. A 74-71 home defeat against Kamiakin on Jan. 14 was avenged a couple weeks later on the Braves’ home court when the Bombers romped to a 72-52 win to clear their path to another league title.
Sorn had five blocks that night in an electric atmosphere at Kamiakin, and Braves coach Brian Meneely acknowledged just how tough the Bombers big man made it for his offense, which posted its lowest point total of 2017 at the time.
“Obviously Sorn impacted the game by being in the middle, blocking shots and plugging the lane,” Meneely said after the loss. “They were able to do what they wanted defensively, and we weren’t able to hurt them for it.”
After playing in the shadow — figuratively, at least — of Beo, one of the best to ever come through the Bomber program, Sorn has relished the chance to be a go-to guy for his team.
“Last year, I remember distinctly we were playing Kamiakin, and it was at their house, and we beat them by (two),” Sorn said. “And before the game I was like, ‘Man, I really hope our guys can pull through, and I really hope Steven has a good day,’ like that.
“And now it’s like, crap, now I’m the one that has to have a good day. It’s kind of cool like that, kind of different.”
BOMBERS BATTLE THE BULLPUPS
As hot as the Bombers have been of late, a lot will likely have to go their way to topple No. 2 Gonzaga Prep (19-1).
Senior forward Anton Watson (averaged 19 points in regular season) is the Bullpups leader, but their depth tends to be their biggest weapon. When Richland and G-Prep first met this season, Shane Eugenio, Kea Vargas, Devin Culp, Sam Lockett, Sheadon Byrd, Jamari Jones and Watson all scored at least eight points.
“You’ve got to take away what they’re comfortable doing,” Streufert said. “Obviously Watson is a powerful inside-out player, but you’ve gotta try to force him to make tough shots.
“And you have to not let Vargas run the show like he can. He does such a great job of controlling his team, putting them in the right places, and if you leave him open, he’s gonna score.”
That will likely force Richland to expand its player rotation, as only six players logged minutes in Saturday’s 64-57 win over Ferris.
Richland’s defense struggled the first time it played G-Prep, but the biggest stat to jump out from that game was 3-pointers — or rather the lack of them. The Bombers missed all 14 of their attempts from beyond the arc.
“This one’s definitely going to be nice, because we lost to them at our house,” Sorn said. “I hate that so much; losing at your own house.
“It’s a big game that really matters. I don’t want to say that the other one didn’t matter. But if we come out and beat them, in a big game like this that matters, it’s going to be really nice.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.