Galena boys basketball beats Reno |

Galena boys basketball beats Reno

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – A jammed parking lot, chock-full bleachers in “The Cave” and two teams going at each other with unbounded intensity are all usually indicative of playoff basketball at Galena High School.

But it was only a Tuesday night home opener for the Grizzlies, who were hosting the defending Class 4A state champion Reno Huskies. And after a tightly contested match, it was Galena that took the 59-56 win, avenging a 55-52 loss in last year’s regional semifinals against the Huskies.

“I’m very upset with our shot selection,” said Tom Mauer, in his 15th year as head coach for Galena, which improved to 1-1 after opening the season Friday with a 76-60 loss to Archbishop Mitty, which is ranked No. 16 nationally by USA Today. “We’ll never have an easy game. We’re ranked No.1 in Nevada by Sports Illustrated and we’re going to play five nationally ranked teams. We’re marked this season.”

The Huskies, now 2-2, may be loaded with sophomores and juniors – Galena started four seniors – but they never backed down to the Grizzlies, rallying from a 28-20 first-quarter deficit with a 13-2 run to take a 33-30 halftime lead.

“They’re a good team,” said Grizzlies junior center Luke Babbitt, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “In the beginning of the game we gave up some easy baskets.”

“They had nine offensive boards in the first half,” Mauer said of the swarming Huskies. “That contributed to us shooting 11-of-18. Blockouts, going to the boards, we had no respect for either one. Win or lose, we came out of it with a lot of note-taking.”

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The difference in the game came to turnovers (Galena committed only seven) and free throws, with Reno going a combined 2-of-4 from the line while Galena was 14-of-28. The 6-foot-8 Babbitt started off the second half shaky from the charity stripe, missing his first three attempts, but he finished 6-of-10 on the night.

“There’s not much to say (about free throws) except that I was really bad,” Babbitt said. “I’m going to try and improve.”

Babbitt had eight second-half points, including a lay-up that gave Galena some breathing room at 55-51, with 2 minutes, 10 seconds to go in the game. He also drained both free throws after an Olek Czyz foul to ice the game with 15 seconds to go.

“Luke plays better every day,” Mauer said. “The AAU ball takes a lot out of him. His ball-handling is better. If it wasn’t for the free throws, he has an outstanding game. Defensively he played Olek well in the first half. (Czyz finished with four points).

“Luke has all the pressure on him. It’s like he feels he has to win the game for us. But he has four other players to help him. I think good chemistry is better than All-Stars (players). Now we have to make him believe that.”

The Huskies challenged Galena’s zone defense with accurate shooting from the perimeter – sophomore guard Austin Morgan had five 3-pointers and Casey Brown added three more – and by driving the lane to the basket.

Galena outscored the Huskies 17-7 to open the second half, but a Roger Carlson lay-up tied the score 51-51 with 3:34 to go.

Brice Crook’s banker gave the Grizzlies the last lead it would need. Crook had 16 points, 6-5 senior guard Tristan Hill added 11 and 6-3 senior guard J.D. Peters chipped in 10 for Galena.

Morgan had a team-high 17 points for Reno, which also got 12 from Carlson and 11 from Brown.

The Huskies played an up-tempo game and the Grizzlies complied with that style early, something that rankled Mauer.

“Mauer never likes to go up and down the court,” Mauer said. “Mauer believes in going 90 feet if given the opportunity. But I thought they did a good job – unlike with Mitty. They made adjustments at the timeouts. You heard me screaming because only one guy should be talking.

“They learned today how to play at the end of the game. They learned how to defend with a lead at the end of a game.”

Babbitt said he liked the playoff atmosphere.

“We didn’t have the football team here for us, (but) it was nice to play in front of that kind of crowd early in the season,” Babbitt said. “The last two games we’ve played against two really good teams early in the season. We’re getting better. We’re ready for Westchester.”

That would be the Westchester Comets, of Los Angeles, ranked No. 17 nationally by USA Today and whom Galena will play on Thursday.

Mauer will be looking for the same kind of improvement he saw from the game with Mitty to Tuesday’s contest with Reno. Galena committed 19 turnovers against the Monarchs.

“I’m a firm believer in reasons why you lost,” Mauer said. “If you understand them and eliminate the reasons, you come out and win. We went from 19 turnovers (against Mitty) to seven tonight. We’re understanding that taking care of the ball is critical. Our set offense was good today, unlike Mitty.”

Galena will leave at 3:50 p.m. on Thursday to play the Comets at 8:30 that night.