RENO - A tall order faced the Galena High School boys basketball team when it faced highly touted Bishop Gorman in the first round of the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies started out well enough. They just weren't able to finish the job, as the Gorman Gaels from Las Vegas stormed back to claim a 49-40 first-round victory at Lawlor Events Center.
Gorman (24-5) scored 13 unanswered points to start the third quarter, erasing a seven-point halftime deficit, and then the Gaels used some sharpshooting from the free-throw line to put a stubborn Galena (20-12) squad away in the final minute.
The effort was a valiant one, considering Galena's tallest starter was 6-foot-4 Gregg Thetford, as opposed to a Gorman lineup that features 6-9 Jason Carter and 6-6 Paul Bania. Coach Tom Maurer predicted the Grizzlies would need to play a perfect game to win - they just came up a little short.
"We should have won the game," Maurer said. "We controlled the tempo like we wanted, the bottom line was, we didn't finish."
In other words, the Grizzlies didn't capitalize when some good scoring opportunities presented themselves.
"It was like fool's gold," Maurer said. "We'd beat the trap and get the 3-on-2, then we wouldn't take the ball to the hole. The wings wouldn't collapse and we'd end up having to take a difficult shot instead of going for the layup or maybe drawing the foul."
Bishop Gorman coach Jeff Wagonseller paid tribute to Galena's game plan.
"They did a great job of getting into us and running the tempo in the first half," Wagonseller said. "Give Maurer credit. He did a great job of scouting us."
Thetford had a putback, Chase Altom fed Joe Heaton for a 3-pointer from the left corner and then Heaton put in a scoop shot as Galena scored seven unanswered points in the final 1:16 before halftime to take a 21-14 lead.
"The last two minutes of the second quarter, we just stopped playing," Wagonseller said. "We just need to attack the basket. We've got too good of a team to sit back and wait for things to happen to us."
Carter led Gorman's third-quarter surge. The junior center sank two free throws to cut Galena's lead to one. Then he blocked a shot on the defensive end and moments later fed Danny Gomez for a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put the Gaels on top with 6:06 showing on the clock. Bania capped the 13-0 run as he knocked down a 15-footer off another assist from Carter.
"That 13-0 run killed us. We were in control and let it get away," Maurer said. "We made some unintelligent decisions that allowed them to get some easy looks during that stretch."
Galena regained the lead twice early in the fourth quarter - 31-30 on a pair of Heaton free throws and 33-32 on two Thetford free throws.
Carter answered with a three-point play, and then he fed an inside pass to Dyante Perkins for a layup as the Gaels took the lead for good.
Gorman shot 13-for-15 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to put the game away and finished 18-for-21 from the line overall.
Galena only trailed 42-40 going into the final minute, but All-Sunset Division guard Dinard Taylor sank six straight free throws at the end to put the game away. Taylor finished with a game-high 16 points.
Heaton led Galena with 14 points, while Thetford added nine and Mike Atkinson had seven for the Grizzlies.
"This was a tough loss. I wanted to win just for our four seniors," Maurer said, pointing to Atkinson, Mike Gardner, Kevin Hill and Dan Hickman. "They've given their lives to this program for the last four years."