Galena able to hold off Hug
Appeal Sports Writer
SPARKS – Stalling in wrestling can cost you points. Stalling in basketball not only can save you points, it can win you a game.
Behind the laser-precision sharpshooting of guard Armon Johnson, the Hug Hawks had whittled Galena’s 19-point third-quarter lead down to one, at 58-57, with 6 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the game.
Then, after Galena had battled back to an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, Grizzlies coach Tom Mauer turned it over to his passing game, And even though the Hawks would once again rally to make it interesting, the stall figured big in Galena’s 75-71 victory over Hug Friday in the semifinals of the Northern 4A regional playoffs.
With the win, the Grizzlies improved their record to 20-9 and advanced to today’s championship game against Douglas, an 86-59 winner over defending Class 4A state champion Reno.
Hug ended its season at 24-6.
After taking a 69-61 lead on a J.D. Peters free throw, the Grizzlies went into stall mode and junior forward Luke Babbitt drew a Johnson foul after 90-plus seconds of passing the ball.
Babbitt, who scored a team-high 34 points, converted both free throws to give Galena a 71-61 lead.
Hug’s Duke Williams connected for eight straight points – on a pair of 3-pointers and a putback – to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 71-69, with 45 seconds remaining.
Williams then fouled Markis “Goose” Robinson, who converted both free throws to give Galena a 73-69 lead with 38 seconds to go.
Galena iced the game after Johnson subsequently threw the ball out of bounds on a no-look pass.
“It was crazy,” said Peters, who scored 13 points. “Armon is unbelievable. They’re never out of it with Armon on the floor. It was wild.”
“It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take the win any way we can get it,” Babbitt said.
Mauer, in his 15th year as Galena’s head coach, said his team’s ball-handling had a big effect on the outcome of the game.
“We only had seven turnovers. That was outstanding,” Mauer said. “Our rebounding was phenomenal. I thought we did a good job on the offensive boards. I thought that when we went into that stall, it slowed the tempo. Armon can’t score when he doesn’t have the ball. I thought we did a good job.”
But when Johnson had the ball in his hands, it was another story.
With his Hawks trailing, 54-35, Johnson went wild, connecting on five consecutive shots – including four 3-pointers – to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 54-49, with 1:00 left in the third quarter.
Babbitt answered with a hook to break up the 14-point outburst, but Johnson, who scored a game-high 46 points, came right back with another three to make it 56-52.
Babbitt, who scored a team-high 34 points, converted a layup to give Galena a little breathing room, 58-52, at the end of the third quarter.
Johnson opened the fourth quarter with a drive to the basket and Riley Rowe added a layup to chop the lead to 58-56. Johnson cut the lead even further, converting one of his two free throws after Brice Crook drew a technical foul.
Three different players scored for Galena in an 8-0 run, which ran the lead to 66-57. Eric Maupin hit a pair of free throws, Babbitt converted a three-point play after driving it to the hoop and drawing a foul and Tristan Hill buried a 3-pointer in the spurt.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the game was in the help that Babbitt got in comparison to Johnson. No other Hawk besides Johnson and Williams scored in double figures, but Babbitt, Peters and Crook – who added 10 points – all hit double figures, with Hill and Maupin each adding seven for Galena.
“As a team we’re trying to win the state crown,” Peters said. “It takes more than one guy. Luke’s the man. When he goes, we go. Take nothing from him, but we played well as a team tonight.”
“That’s one of the things we’re trying to do – get the whole team involved,” Babbitt said. “We’ve worked on that all year long.”
Mauer said it was a good time to play team ball.
“We got a report that said they were looking at Armon to do the job,” Mauer said. “We knew that. He’s phenomenal. He’s just a competitor. When I told them to double up on Armon, he got in our huddle and said (something to Mauer). He never wants to call it quits. He’s gonna be a great player in college.”
Against Douglas, Galena will be looking to win its seventh regional championship and advance to next week’s Class 4A state championships in Las Vegas.
“I think (Douglas coach) Rob (Streeter) did an outstanding job tonight,” Mauer said. “We’re going to be the underdog in this one. We only beat Reno by three (in the regular season). They beat Reno by 40 (actually, 27). It’s going to be a tough game…I hope. They have the bench, the height and the hunger.
“This (win over Reno) will wake them (the Grizzlies) up. They have to come out a lot hungrier. We weathered the storm too long.”
The Galena-Douglas game will begin at 6 p.m. and will follow the Reed-Manogue girls regional championship game, which begins at 4 p.m. at Spanish Springs High School.