RENO -- Even with a 23-point lead in the second quarter, McQueen High School boys basketball coach Eric Swain knew better than to relax on Tuesday night. He's too many games go wrong in The Cave at Galena.
"We've only won twice here in the last six years, so I knew they weren't going to hand it to us," Swain said. "We were up 23 and it was far from over. They've got too much tradition, too much pride in what they do."
Galena staged a furious second-half come back to stir up some drama, but in the end, it wasn't enough as J.J. Myatt and Jeff Rowe combined to score 38 points and McQueen picked up a 67-52 High Desert League victory.
McQueen is now third in the league with its 5-2 record, one game behind first-place Elko (5-1). Galena dropped to fifth in the league with a 3-4 record (9-12 overall) in a game head coach Tom Maurer missed as a result of his ejection in Monday's 84-58 loss against Cheyenne in Las Vegas on Monday.
The Grizzlies may well have felt like they were still in Las Vegas when McQueen scored 20 unanswered points during a nine-minute span bridging the first and second quarters to take a 30-7 lead. The Lancers were up 32-16 at halftime
"We went away from the things that made us successful over the years; our penetration, getting it inside to our big guys, getting fouled and going to the line and being able to set up our defense," coach Doug Cordova said.
The Grizzlies began to take it inside in the third quarter when they hit nine shots from the field, all from inside the paint.
And they played some defense. Nick Zuccarini took a charge, then he went inside and scored off an assist from Mikey Ferguson to cut McQueen's lead to 46-35. Then a steal set up Joe Heaton for a drive to the basket for two more points to make it 46-37 as time expired in the third period.
Dave Robinson buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to bring the Grizzlies within 46-40 to start the fourth quarter, but that's as close as they would get.
"The third quarter, we came out and worked really hard, played good man-to-man, took it away from Rowe and Myatt. But after that, we just ran out of gas."
McQueen's Myatt, who scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the first quarter, hit a baseline jumper to answer Robinson's 3 ball. Then Myatt took a pass from Cody Coesens in the right corner and buried a 3-pointer to push the lead back into double digits. Rowe scored 12 points in the final five minutes to help the Lancers put it away.
"It was a matter of us keeping our focus," said Swain, whose Lancers lost to Galena three times last season, including the Northern 4A Regional Tournament finals. "They were going to come down to the wire. That was the closest 15-point game that I've coached in a while."
Cordova would have rather seen the score close from the start.
"Yesterday in Vegas, we played sluggish in the first half and in the second half we decided to play and came back, but you run out of energy to try and come back from that many points down," he said. "I like to see the heart, I just wish we could put the first half and second half together so we don't have to come from so far back."
Robinson finished with 15 points to lead Galena offensively while Heaton added 11.
This game capped off a hectic four-day stretch in which the Grizzlies lost three times. They lost Saturday night at Elko 42-41, got back home Sunday morning at 3 a.m. and then flew to Las Vegas on Monday, where they lost to Cheyenne.
Now, the Grizzlies have to play some catch up to secure a top-four finish in the league and qualify for the regional tournament next month.
"From here on out, we're going to have to go game-by-game and win them all if we want to get to the zone tournament," Cordova said.