The Galena Grizzlies boys basketball team failed to make its point Tuesday night.
The Grizzlies, playing without their top two point guards for much of the game, lost a High Desert League game for the first time in nearly three years, falling to the Spanish Springs Cougars, 50-45, at Galena High.
"This is big for the program, absolutely," Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. "But it's just one game. We can't pat ourselves on the back for too long over this. I know tomorrow I'm going to be back at practice just as intense as ever."
The Grizzlies? Well, they will be on a long bus ride to Elko today, thinking about how a 32-game league winning streak evaporated on a cold, windy and snowy night on their own court.
"We were just very, very bad learners today," said Galena coach Tom Maurer, who sat starting point guard Markis Robinson on the bench in the first half and backup point guard Deon Ashley for the entire game because of disciplinary reasons. "We just didn't play very well, especially on defense."
Both Ashley and Robinson will be available to play tonight at Elko, Maurer said. The Grizzlies, now 13-11 overall and 7-1 in the High Desert League, will complete a busy three-game, four-day stretch with a home game Friday against Bishop Manogue.
"Galena is known as a program that prepares for each game," Maurer said. "We didn't look prepared (against Spanish Springs). We knew what they (the Cougars) we're going to do. We (the coaches) told them. But our guys didn't do a good job preparing. Hopefully, our guys will start to buy into that."
The lack of an experienced point guard on the floor clearly hurt the Grizzlies in the first half. Galena missed its first 11 shots and found itself down 10-5 after one quarter and 18-9 with 4:30 to go in the second quarter. The Grizzlies didn't convert a field goal attempt until Scott Bristol's layup off a feed from Luke Babbitt with 1:45 to go in the first quarter.
"I thought our defense was exceptional," Penney said. "Tyler Emrick did an outstanding job inside for us."
The Grizzlies, though, somehow went into the halftime locker room with a 23-22 lead.
"We started to run our offense and took good shots," Maurer said, explaining a 14-4 Galena run over the final four minutes of the second quarter. The run was highlighted by a pair of dunks by Babbitt off a steal at midcourt and an offensive rebound under the basket.
Babbitt, who missed his first six shots of the game, scored 14 of Galena's 23 first-half points. The 6-foot-8 senior scored his team's final nine points of the half.
The Cougars, though, now 12-7 overall and 4-4 in the High Desert League, didn't panic after Babbitt's scoring flurry late in the first half.
"At halftime we just told the guys, 'Keep doing what youíre doing,'" Penney said. "We just had to correct some things. But we didn't worry about what Galena was doing. We just took care of ourselves."
Galena enjoyed a lead in the game for just 32 seconds - the last 17 seconds of the first half and the first 15 in the second half. The Galena offense continued to struggle, actually scoring one fewer point in the second half than the first half, despite the return of Robinson to the floor.
Maurer, though, was more concerned about the defense after the game. "I don't look at the offense after this," he said. "I look at the defense. We didn't play well on defense at all."
Galena did force five ties in the second half. And all five times it was Babbitt doing the honors.
The senior scored in the lane to even things at 31-31with 3:10 to go in the third quarter and his layup tied the game at 33-33 a little over a minute later.
Babbitt came to the rescue three more times in the fourth quarter. He drained a 3-pointer to catch the Cougars at 37-37 with 5:29 to go in the game. His jumper in the lane with 4:07 to go knotted the game at 39-39 and his two free throws evened the score for the last time at 41-41 with 3:08 to go.
In the end, though, it was too much Babbitt and too little everyone else for the Grizzlies. Babbitt finished the night with 31 of Galena's 45 points (69 percent). Scott Bristol was Galena's second-highest scorer with five points.
"I don't know if that's the way we drew it up," smiled Penney. "Like I said, we didn't worry about Galena as much as we just tried to do what we needed to do."
Spanish Springs, which is in a fight for third place in the High Desert League with Reed, Fallon and Elko, enjoyed balanced scoring. Taelor Marchbanks led the Cougars with 18 points followed by Emrick's 11 and Daniel Lide's eight.
Galena, which last lost a league game in February 2005 to Reed, hopes to get back on the winning path at Elko tonight.
"This now becomes a mental game for us," Maurer said. "We have to learn from this, correct some things and move on. We're still in the driver's seat in the league if we win the rest of our games."