The Reed Raiders had a surprise for the Galena Grizzlies Tuesday night.
"They came out in a box-and-one on (Luke) Babbitt," Galena coach Tom Maurer said, referring to the Raiders' defense. "I really didn't expect that at all."
The Raiders' Babbitt cage, effective for a while, failed to hold the state's all-time leading scorer. Babbitt erupted for 16 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 31 in the Grizzlies' 73-67 High Desert League victory.
"When teams are going to box-and-one Luke, other guys have to step up," Galena junior Victor Walker said. "We all had to step up."
Walker scored six key points in the second quarter and finished with eight. Markis Robinson was the perfect complement to Babbitt all night, scoring 18 points. Jake Mansfield contributed three 3-pointers as Galena improved to 12-11 overall and 6-0 in the High Desert League.
"We had to spread them out and get them out of that defense," said Maurer, whose Grizzlies have now won 31 consecutive High Desert League games dating back to a February 2005 loss at Galena to Reed. "Jake hit some big shots and we attacked the basket."
Babbitt, who didn't even take a shot until the final minute of the first quarter, played one of his better all-around games of the year.
The 6-foot-8 senior blocked a shot by Reed's Nick Dixon in the final seconds of the first quarter and turned back a shot by Zack Wood in the opening seconds of the second quarter. He then blocked a shot by Joe Laverdure with 1:25 to go in the first half as Galena held the high-scoring Raiders to just 10 second-quarter points. Babbitt continued his defensive dominance in the second half with a pair of steals against Dixon in the final minute of the third quarter as the Grizzlies took a 46-42 lead into the final eight minutes. Babbitt then started the fourth quarter with a block and a steal in the first minute.
"This was just a great game for us," Maurer said. "We just finished a stretch of four games in five days. We went on the road at Bishop Manogue and went on the road at Reed and won both games."
The Grizzlies also found time to squeeze in a trip to Berkeley on Monday (they lost to Amador Valley) and then had to endure a five-hour ride in a van in the snow on the way home.
"I knew this would be a mental game," said Maurer of the game at Reed. "This team is dead tired right now. I just asked them to give everything they could possibly give and they did just that."
Reed, with Omarri Williams hitting a pair of 3-pointers and Dixon scoring seven points, jumped out to a 13-7 lead four minutes into the game as Galena figured out how to attack the box-and-one on Babbitt.
"We got down early," Walker said. "But we didn't let that bother us."
Mansfield hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter as Galena cut Reed's lead to 15-14 entering the second quarter. Walker then came off the bench to score six points in the second quarter as Galena took a 30-25 halftime lead. He put back an offensive rebound off a Babbitt missed 3-pointer for a 23-20 Galena lead. He drove the baseline for a layup and a 25-22 lead and then scored off a pass from Garrett Womack for a 27-22 lead.
"I was just able to find some holes in the defense," Walker said.
Robinson hit a 3-pointer to give Galena a 35-30 lead two minutes into the third quarter. The 6-foot senior guard also hit a pair of short jumpers in the lane as the Grizzlies continued to find openings in the Raiders' defense.
"We found the open guy," Maurer said. "We were able to split the middle and get some good looks."
"We were able to keep the lead and then Babbitt started to hit shots," Walker said.
Babbitt was unstoppable in the fourth quarter.
The University of Nevada recruit set the tone for the final eight minutes with a steal in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. He followed the steal with a dunk for a 48-42 lead just 30 seconds later and followed the dunk with a block of a Travis Peterson shot. Babbitt then went down to the other end of the court and scored over Peterson for a 52-42 lead with 6:05 to play and added a jumper from the top of the key for a 56-45 lead a minute later.
The Grizzlies outscored the Raiders 12-3 over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to take control. The run was capped off by a short jumper by Womack off a feed from Mansfield.
"Womack did a great job on defense against Omarri (Williams)," Maurer said. "That was big for us."
Williams did hit five 3-pointers on his way to a 23-point night. And the Raiders did make things interesting down the stretch after Mansfield's third 3-pointer of the game gave Galena a 64-53 lead with 2:45 to play. Reed, which drained a dozen 3-pointers in the game, cut Galena's lead to 66-59 with just over a minute to play on Zack Wood's fourth trey. Cory Whitaker then hit a 3-pointer to pull Reed within 68-62 with 20 seconds to play. Another 3-pointer, this time by Williams, cut Galena's lead to 69-65 with 6.5 seconds to play.
Babbitt, though, held off the Raiders by sinking four consecutive free throws - two thanks to the second technical on Reed coach Paul Gray - with one second to play.
"We did a nice job on defense," Maurer said. "The last time we played them (a 59-55 Galena victory on Dec. 20 at Galena), Travis Peterson scored 16 points. We did a nice job on him this time."
Peterson took just one shot and was held scoreless on the night.
"This was a big confidence builder for this team," Maurer said. "I'm going to give them (Wednesday) off. They earned it."