Galena High School boys' basketball coach Tom Maurer says it will take just one thing for his Grizzlies to defeat Bishop Gorman today in the opening round of the 4A State Tournament this morning.
"We're going to have to play a near-perfect game," said Maurer, whose team plays at 10:35 a.m. today at Lawlor Events Center. "Not only do they have good coaching, but they have good athletes who truly understand the game."
Gorman (23-5), the South's No. 3 seed, advanced to the state tournament by placing second in the Sunset Region Tournament. The Gaels, ranked No. 1 in Las Vegas for much of the season, lost to Durango 68-66 in the Sunset title game.
"I was very surprised they lost, but Durango's no slouch either," Maurer said.
Gorman's credentials are among the best of any Nevada team in the tourney. The Gaels were ranked in the Top 10 on the West Coast by USA Today, made it to the Millennium Division championship game at the Reebok/Las Vegas Prep Holiday Classic in December (a loss ot Long Beach Poly), and won tournaments in Logan, Utah, and Sheridan, Wyo.
Galena (20-11), the North's No. 3-seed, enters the tournament as the zone's surprise team, having advanced to the zone title game with an upset over Division II champion Reno after finishing second in Division I. In fact, the Grizzlies narrowly escaped a third-place division finish, which would have had Galena playing at South Tahoe - the eventual zone champions - in the opening round of the zone playoffs, a game which would have likely ended the Grizzlies postseason.
Galena guard Chase Altom said the Grizzlies, although the underdogs in today's game, aren't conceding the game on reputation alone.
"Myself and my teammates aren't intimidated," Altom said. "We practiced this summer against some big teams; we have to come out focused and play smart."
Galena will have to focus on containing Gorman's high-scoring juniors, including 6-foot-10 center Josh Carter, 6-6 forward Paul Bania, and 5-10 guard Dinard Taylor. The Grizzlies will also have to deal with the Gaels' pressure defense.
"We're going to have to handle their 1-3-1 half court trap," Maurer said. "We understand their speed is tremendous, and we have to limit the touches of the ball by Carter, who's getting recruited by every major college in America."
Galena has been led in scoring in recent games by forwards Mike Atkinson and Joe Heaton, as well as guard Sam Sikes.
Notes: Maurer said he's disappointed he has to play the Gaels early in the tournament because Gorman coach Jeff Wagonseller is one of his best friends from the South. "I'm bummed, because Jeff and his staff have become good friends of ours here at Galena," he said.
"They give us their gym to practice in when we're down there. Obviously, you don't want to see a friendship (between schools) play each other right off the bat, but they blew it by losing (to Durango)." Maurer joked.