In an era when every player is seemingly looking for a 3-pointer or a slam dunk, Galena High School boys basketball coach Tom Maurer has convinced his team that defense can still win championships.
"Defense is what we live for," said Grizzly guard Sam Sikes moments after Galena held off Reno High 35-34 to advance to the Northern 4A Zone final against South Tahoe tonight at 7 p.m. "We were very intense and everybody worked hard. We wanted in more and it showed on the scoreboard."
Even after holding the Huskies to just 10 first-half points, Reno had a chance to win the game as time ran out. Not surprisingly, it was a defensive play which clinched the contest for Galena, as forward Mike Atkinson blocked the potential game-winner from Reno's David Woods just before the buzzer.
The block gave Atkinson a sense of relief, as just seconds before he had missed two free throws which would have forced Reno to make a 3-pointer to tie the game.
"I had to make it up somehow to the team," said Atkinson, who scored four points. "We had practiced the whole year for this game."
Even the often-critical Maurer, who will be coaching in his fourth consecutive zone championship, praised the Galena defense, which limited Reno's top three scorers, guard Alex Gamboa, forward Woods and center David Padgett to a combined 28 points. (The only other Husky to score was Ryan Kane, who had six points.)
"I'm very proud of the way we played defense tonight," Maurer said. "These kids worked very hard the past two days on their half-court and full-court defense. They stopped three great ball players and two complementary players.
"We did a great job helping and recovering. To hold a team to 10 points in a half is just phenomenal. And that's against Northern Nevada's best."
SOUTH TAHOE 41, MCQUEEN 38
In a similar game, defense and tempo determined the outcome as South Tahoe outscored McQueen 5-0 in the fourth quarter to come from behind and win the evening's late game and avenge a season-opening loss to the Lancers.
South Tahoe (25-4) trailed 27-17 at halftime and was still down by 11 after McQueen's Karl Aaker buried a 3-pointer from NBA range with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
The Vikings got to within 38-36 at the end of the period, then Andy Butcher hit a free throw and Matt Williams sank two free throws after a technical was called on McQueen's bench - putting the Vikings on top 39-38 with 5:59 to go.
South Tahoe retained possession and went into a stall that ran two minutes off the clock before McQueen came out of its zone. The Lancers had two chances to regain the lead, but missed one shot and later turned the ball over on a five-second violation.
John Giannoni and Butcher scored 10 points each to lead South Tahoe. Aaker led all scorers with 20 for McQueen.