Babbitt leads Galena to first state crown
BY CHARLES WHISNAND
LAS VEGAS – Make no mistake about it, this was a total team effort in which in every Galena player on the floor poured every ounce of heart and soul he had into this game.
Actually, every player on both teams poured every ounce of heart and soul he had into this game. But there was also no denying that with the game on the line, it belonged to one player.
Luke Babbitt didn’t just take control of this game. He throttled by the neck, turned it upside down and shook it for loose change, then put it in a headlock for good measure. It was a performance for the ages in a game for the ages.
Babbitt scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including the 3-pointer that gave Galena the lead in a 54-51 win over Mojave on Friday in the NIAA 4A State Finals at The Orleans Arena.
It was the first state title for Galena and the second straight 4A title for the North (Reno High won last year).
“Character,” said Galena coach Tom Maurer in using the most simple – and most perfect – word that could summarize this game. “I thought both teams showed good character. “This one’s etched in stone. It was a great chess match. Thank God I had one more piece.”
Galena survived a 3-point assault by Mojave, which made five 3-pointers in the third quarter to erase a 28-18 halftime deficit and go up 41-34. But Galena responded with a 7-0 run to end the quarter on Tristan Hill’s three, Babbitt’s basket and J.D. Peters’ short jumper.
After Mojave went up 42-41, Babbitt went to work. His putback gave Galena a 43-42 lead. His jumper gave the Grizzlies a 45-44 lead.
After Mojave went up 48-45, Babbitt hit a turnaround jump and then another jumper that gave Galena a 49-48 lead. Anthony Marshall responded by nailing a three with the taller Babbitt’s hand in his face to give Mojave a 51-49 lead.
Then came the most memorable shot in Galena history, Babbitt’s three that gave Galena a 52-51 lead. Babbitt was originally supposed to go inside.
“I think they knew what was coming so I just stepped out,” Babbitt said. “J.D. hit me with a perfect pass. I don’t know when it will sink in. It’s awesome.”
“I had a lot of pressure on me,” Peters said. “He popped out to help me out and he got open. That’s all he needs. A big-time player. It’s just nice not to be crying after a season for once.”
“Great players make great shots,” Maurer said.
But there was still work to be done. After a Mojave miss, Babbitt grabbed the rebound, sparking a fast break which led to Eric Maupin being fouled. Maupin hit one-of-two free throws to make it 53-51.
Then Babbitt and Maupin combined to stop the driving Marshall and Babbitt was fouled with 5.7 seconds left. With all of Galena’s players and fans going crazy, Babbitt calmly walked to the foul line.
Babbitt then got a little lucky when his first foul shot bounced off the back rim and in to make it 54-51. Babbitt missed the second, but never lost focus. He got back on defense, forcing Marshall into missing a desperation three and the title was Galena’s.
Babbitt hurt his right wrist in the first half, and even though he was on the bench, Galena went on an 8-2 run to take a 19-11 lead. After Mojave closed to within 19-16, Galena ended the half with a 9-2 run.
Brice Crook drove the baseline for a basket, Peters hit a pull-up in the lane, Hill hit an NBA-range three and Babbitt hit a baseline jumper to give Galena a 28-18 halftime lead.
Peters added 12 points and Hill had eight points. Maurer was obviously pleased for his four seniors: Peters, Maupin, Hill and Crook.
“I’m very happy for the four seniors that were out there finishing the game,” Maurer said. “They’re going to have memories for the rest of their lives.”
Game notes: Babbitt, a junior, said he already knows who he’s going to give a non-binding verbal commitment to, but is keeping the decision secret. “I haven’t spilled the beans, yet,” he said.
Babbitt said he hopes to make the announcement next week. Babbitt has narrowed his final five choices to Nevada, Ohio State, UCLA, Gonzaga and Arizona.