Galena beats nationally ranked team
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – After trading the lead 11 times in the first half with nationally ranked Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.), the Galena Grizzlies began to smell blood.
And in the second half the Grizzlies went for the kill, defeating the Apaches – ranked No. 15 by Sports Illustrated – 83-75 in a semifinal game of the second annual George Maldonado Memorial Tournament at Galena High School.
With the victory, Galena improved to 4-4 on the season and will play Artesia (Lakewood, Calif.) in the championship game today at 5 p.m. The Pioneers, ranked No. 1 by hoops.net and No. 2 by SI and USA Today, rallied for a 56-52 win over Mountain View (Mesa, Ariz.) in the other semifinal match.
Although Artesia defeated Galena, 90-65, in a non-bracket match on Wednesday, the Grizzlies showed that they are a force to be reckoned with by notching one of the biggest victories in school history against the Apaches, now 5-1.
“We did a great job on their three best players (A.J. Stewart, Devon Lamb and Gabriel Charley),” said Grizzlies coach Tom Mauer. “No. 15 (Kentucky signee Stewart) got into foul trouble. (Galena center) Luke (Babbitt) played like he should be able to and so did Eric Maupin.”
Babbitt led all scorers with 40 points (“I felt like if the shots were there, I’d take ’em,” he said), Tristan Hill added 13, Brice Crook 12, Maupin 10 and Galena’s defense did the rest as the Pioneers forced up quick, mostly inaccurate shots from the perimeter.
Lamb had a team-high 29 points, followed by Charley (16) and James Bell (12), but Babbitt and his teammates held Stewart to only five points.
“He’s a good player,” Babbitt said of Stewart. “I played with him in Germany (in the Albert Schweitzer Games) last spring and I felt like I knew the stuff he’d do and was able to contain him.”
Happy, but not satisfied would be a good way to describe Mauer after the win.
“We committed 18 turnovers resulting in 18 points,” Mauer said. “At the end we didn’t finish. Those are things we have to learn from. Free throws were an issue again. We could’ve sealed the deal. Last night (a 63-50 victory over Weston Ranch) we had a 10-point lead. Galena in the old days would’ve had a 20-point win. We’re still working on some issues.”
Galena was a combined 24-of-37 from the free-throw line (Babbitt was 15-of-16), but in spite of building up its 32-31 halftime lead to 48-36 with 3 minutes, 59 seconds to go in the third quarter, the Grizzlies found themselves on the wrong end of a 15-7 Apaches run and led only 55-51 to start the fourth quarter.
Nevertheless, the Grizzlies didn’t panic and went up, 66-55, when Crook found a Maupin for a highlight-reel slam dunk.
“They did a really good job with their character,” Mauer said of his team. “They were not negative on the bench or on the floor. Luke goes over to Eric and pats him on the butt and says, ‘You need to block out.’ I was happy we stopped them in transition.
“Luke is big and he slapped away some shots. It’s nice to stop some shots with blocks. And Maupin played an outstanding basketball game.”
“Maupin played great,” Babbitt agreed. “He’s been playing great the last few games. He’s the total reason why we have success.”
A technical foul on Arlington Country Day coach Rex Morgan resulted in a pair of Hill free throws to make it 68-55. Morgan went into meltdown mode, banging the scorer’s table with his hand and complained loudly about the officiating.
The officials tossed Morgan after another technical foul with 1:47 remaining, but Hill missed both free throws.
The Apaches whittled down Galena’s 75-63 lead to 77-73, but in the end they couldn’t make their shots and were forced to foul the Grizzlies.
“The type of team they had, they weren’t concerned with defense,” Mauer said. “They’d get the ball and go. They’re an extremely hard-working team. We did a good job late of subbing in.”
Mauer said he felt that Galena’s failure to put the game out of reach earlier in the game was all upstairs.
“They were more worried in mind than body,” Mauer said of his players. “In the huddle it was like ‘Hoosiers.’ They listened and said, ‘We got it.'”
Galena has now played four nationally ranked teams (they are now 1-3) and a rematch with Artesia will make it five.
“It will be interesting,” Mauer said. “I’m only going to show them the second and third periods of the Artesia game. I’m not going to show them anything negative.
“It’s just a privilege again. How much more experience can we get? This is like a bonus. For three weeks we’ve played some extremely good teams (on the road). Now we get to stay at home and play three good teams. Artesia is a phenomenal team, but Galena is getting better.”
In other action, Orem (Utah) defeated Douglas, 48-38, and Lehi (Utah) beat Weston Ranch (Stockton, Calif.), 53-52.
In today’s other games, Douglas will face Weston Ranch for seventh place at noon, Orem will meet Lehi for fifth place at 1:30 p.m. and Mountain View and Arlington Country Day will play for third place at 3:30.
For more information, log on to http://www.maldonadoclassic.com.