Galena boys fall against Foothill

RENO -- The Galena Grizzlies' boys basketball team might want to start wearing nametags.

"Yeah, did you recognize anybody out there," smiled Grizzlies senior forward Luke Babbitt Friday night after a season-opening 70-63 loss to the Foothill Falcons at Galena High. "There was a lot of new faces."

Babbitt, the only returning starter from last year's Class 4A state championship team, poured in 40 points against Foothill, 20 in each half. The Falcons, though, used a 31-point fourth quarter to spoil the Grizzlies' opener.

"I'm not one to make excuses," Galena coach Tom Maurer said. "But we have four new starters out there and a bench that I barely even know their names yet. We're going to have to have patience. And I'm going to have to be a heck of a teacher this year."

Not even nametags could have helped the Grizzlies against Foothill. The Falcons, behind 11 fourth-quarter points from guard Earl Jones, outscored Galena, 14-4, over the final three minutes. Galena had led by as much as 12 (40-28) with three minutes to go in the third quarter.

"We just had tired legs in the fourth quarter," Maurer said. "I have four guys on this team who just came to us from the football team. We had very, very tired legs. And you could see it."

Foothill converted 13-of-19 shots in the fourth quarter to steal the victory. The Grizzlies made just two of seven shots in the final quarter.

"Our lack of experience hurt us," said Babbitt, who signed a letter of intent in early November to play for the Wolf Pack next season. "We got the lead but in the fourth quarter but our lack of experience caught up with us."

The 6-foot-8 Babbitt scored Galena's first 12 points as the Grizzlies took a 12-11 lead in the first six minutes. Foothill, the defending Southeast Division champion, led 16-14 after one quarter as Jones, Micah Shepard and Marcus Hurtado all hit 3-pointers.

The Grizzlies, though, gave Babbitt some help on the scoring end in the second quarter in taking a 30-26 halftime lead. Jake Mansfield had a couple of buckets and Garrett Womack and Nicholas Wood each had a pair of free throws in the second quarter to complement Babbitt's eight points.

Markis "Goose" Robinson then had a layup and a 3-pointer to start the third quarter and Babbitt drove the baseline and hit a 12-footer as Galena went on a 10-2 spurt over the first five minutes of the third quarter for a 40-28 lead. Those five minutes, when three different Grizzlies scored (Scott Bristol also added a free throw), is how Maurer would like to see his new team play this season.

"Galena basketball is team basketball," Maurer said. "I don't want one guy to score all our points."

Babbitt, though, ended up scoring 64 percent of the Grizzlies points against Foothill.

"That's not what I want," Maurer said. "But we have so many new faces out there and we have to learn how to play together."

Babbitt was 4-of-4 from the free throw line to open the fourth quarter as Galena took a 51-41 lead with 6:47 to play. But a pair of three-point plays by Foothill's Ben Green and Jerry Harville on consecutive trips down the floor quickly cut the Grizzlies' lead to 51-47 just 15 second later.

Jones, who finished with a team-high 18 points, gave Foothill a 54-53 lead with a 3-pointer with five minutes to play in the game. The teams then traded runs - Galena led 59-56 with 3:50 to go and Foothill led 63-59 with 1:47 to go. But a pair of Mansfield free throws tied the game at 63-63 with 1:13 to play.

But that, however, is where the Galena offense evaporated. Jones hit an 8-footer with a minute to go for a 65-63 Foothill lead. Babbitt then came up short on two 3-pointers - the second with 14 seconds left and Foothill leading 66-63.

A layup by Hurtado with 12 seconds to play gave Foothill a 68-63 lead. Jones closed the scoring with another layup at the buzzer after a Galena turnover at midcourt.

"They (Foothill) played very good defense," said Babbitt, who drained 7-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter. "They rotated over to me and did a nice job. They made it tough. They had guys step up."

Foothill is coached by former Wolf Pack point guard Kevin Soares. Soares is also a former Galena assistant coach under Maurer.

"Kevin did a great job on defense against us," said Maurer, whose Grizzlies will host Bishop Gorman today at 3 p.m. "But we're all about tempo. We could never really get the tempo where we wanted it because we really don't have any of our sets put in yet. That's going to take time."


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