Artesia knocks off Galena |

Artesia knocks off Galena

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – A great start or a great finish is sometimes just enough to win a game for a team, but the Artesia (Lakewood, Calif.) Pioneers had both and defeated the Galena Grizzlies, 90-65, in front of a full Galena High School Gym in front of Ohio State coach Thad Matta and Nevada coach Rick Fox Wednesday in non-bracket play in the second annual George Maldonado Memorial Classic.

The Pioneers, ranked No. 1 in the nation by and No. 2 by USA Today and Sports Illustrated, improved to 5-0 on the season and showed tremendous athleticism, speed, talent and had a balanced scoring attack in dropping the Grizzlies to 2-4.

Pioneers senior guard James Harding (an Arizona State signee), junior guard Malik Story (USC), senior guard Martin Whitmore and the No. 1-rated sophomore in the nation, 6-foot-9 Renardo Sidney each had 19 points in the win. Senior guard Anthony Gasporra also chipped in 10 for Artesia.

“We just executed better – defensively and offensively,” said first-year Artesia head coach Loren Grover. “There were moments that we were shaky, but our seniors stepped up and made the play when they had to. I think our maturity was the difference. They (the seniors) don’t panic under pressure.”

“We don’t have those kind of horses,” said Galena head coach Tom Mauer, in his 15th year for the Grizzlies. “We’re still not confident playing in this kind of (packed) arena. It was a pleasure, a privilege to play such a great team. Maybe it wasn’t for the kids. (The Pioneers) were well coached. They were exceptionally, exceptionally talented.”

Galena wasn’t helped by its 20 turnovers and the Pioneers made them pay for it early, jumping up 9-0 before Grizzlies senior forward Eric Maupin put his team on the board with 5 minutes, 29 seconds to go in the first quarter.

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Maupin finished with 14 points for the Grizzlies, as did senior point guard Tristan Hill, who was 5-for-5 in the game and hit all four of his 3-pointers. Junior center Luke Babbitt led all scorers with 23.

“In the end, our team speed was the difference,” Grover said. “We were a little quicker in all five spots and off the bench. With a team like (Galena’s), their starting five gets tired. They need to execute off the bench. I think we’re a little deeper off the bench than they are. (But Galena) played hard. They never, ever give up – no doubt about that.”

Artesia threatened to blow out the Grizzlies and took a 22-9 lead into the second quarter, but a turnaround banker by Babbitt and three treys from Hill cut the Pioneers lead to 29-20.

Although Artesia, which slapped away several shots and seemed to jump out of the shadows for several steals, led by as many as 17 points – 43-26 – Galena outscored the Pioneers (21-19) in the second quarter and went into halftime trailing 43-30.

A Babbitt drive cut the lead to nine at 43-34 before Artesia stretched its lead back to 13 on a finger-roll by Harden. But the Grizzlies fought back and went on a 9-2 run, capped by a Babbitt turnaround jumper to get within six at 49-43, with just over 3 minutes to go in the third.

“I thought the third quarter was outstanding,” Mauer said. “We took a big step from last week. Our horses are not that deep. I thought our defense dwindled down and bought into their greatness (late).”

Galena would get no closer and Artesia went on a 15-6 run to end the quarter. The Pioneers cruised in the fourth quarter and outscored the Grizzlies, 26-16.

“I thought they were outstanding,” Mauer said of the Pioneers, who finished 33-1 last year and won the California Division III championship. “I had fun. Maybe we make a couple of steps and see them in three days.

“Tristan was 6-for-6 (5-5, actually). We tried to get him some looks, but their athletic ability was just amazing. (Renardo) Sidney was good, but I loved Harden.”

In other games, Mountain View (Mesa, Ariz.) defeated Weston Ranch (Sacramento), 75-44, and Arlington Country Day beat Douglas, 86-66.

Bracket play begins today with Artesia facing Douglas at 3:30 p.m., Orem (Utah) taking on Mountain View at 5, Lehi (Utah) squaring off with Arlington Day Country (Jacksonville, Fla.) at 6:30 and Weston Ranch meeting Galena at 8.

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Notes: The rich just keep looking to get richer. Matta, head coach for No. 4-ranked Ohio State, was at the game looking for some more talent.

“I don’t know how longer everyone will be around,” Matta said of his players. “Not many people are aware of this, but we have 10 guys on scholarship this year. We have the potential to sign five players for three straight years.”

Matta said he wasn’t allowed to comment on any recruitable players, but he said he was impressed with what he saw.

Said Motta: “I’ve never seen either team play before. I thought it was high-level play.”