Galena boys roll to victory
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – The North Valleys boys basketball team brought an enthusiastic crowd to cheer it on in Wednesday’s Northern 4A regional playoff game at Galena High School.
And with its fans cheering the notes to the White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army,” the Panthers, seeded fourth in the Sierra League, started off the quarterfinals battle by going toe-to-toe with the High Desert League champion and No. 1 seed Grizzlies.
But North Valleys would’ve needed the help of a seven-nation army to fend off the counterattack of the Grizzlies and their junior forward Luke Babbitt, who scored a career-high 48 points and led Galena to a 103-65 win over the Panthers.
Brice Crook added 17 points for the Grizzlies, who also got 13 from Tristan Hill in improving their record to 19-9 on the season. Galena will play Hug, a 71-59 winner over Bishop Manogue, in Friday’s semifinal round at Spanish Springs High School, beginning at 7 p.m.
In the other semifinal match, Reno (24-5), a 66-48 winner over McQueen, will play Douglas (22-8), a 77-51 victor over Reed, at 5 p.m.
“I thought we played the way we should have,” said 15th-year Galena coach Tom Mauer. “We were strong rebounding. Luke played outstanding on both sides of the ball. He did a good job defensively.”
“It was a good win,” said the 6-foot-8 Babbitt, who was 13-of-13 from the foul line and added three 3-pointers and several monster dunks. “We’re focused on the next round. We’ve got to get ready to go to work tomorrow.”
Babbitt downplayed his own electric performance and chose instead to speak about his team.
“I’m more excited about the win,” he said. “Everyone played well. It’s nice to get 100. It’s the first 100 I can remember.”
North Valley’s combustible guard Archie Kovich led his team with 28 points and hit one of his five 3-pointers to give the Panthers an early 5-2 lead.
Babbitt answered with a 15-foot jumper, Hill hit the first of his three treys and Galena took a 7-5 lead with 5 minutes, 32 seconds to go in the first quarter.
The lead would then change hands four times and North Valleys took its last lead, 17-16, when Kovich converted a three-point play.
Eric Maupin found Crook, who hit a banker to begin a 12-5 run for Galena, which led 26-20 at the end of the first quarter. Babbitt had 21 of the Grizzlies’ 33 second-quarter points as Galena took charge and a 59-38 lead into the locker room.
“They’re tough. They’re not No. 1 for no reason,” said North Valleys coach Kyle Cerfoglio. “We don’t match up with them at all. We’re not going to change. We went after them. They’re good. Credit to them. Our kids fought as hard as they could. Man for man, they’re better than us as far as basketball goes.”
The Grizzlies were taking no prisoners and after North Valleys’ Jesse Bajwa made a layup to start the second half, Galena went on a 10-0 run to increase its lead to 67-40.
Babbitt started the spurt with a three and followed with three free throws after he was fouled behind the arc. J.D. Peters found Babbitt for a dunk and Hill added a layup to cap the run.
North Valleys would cut into the lead after Peters was called for an intentional foul and then a technical. Babbitt was also hit with a technical foul and Jason Lyons hit three-of-four from the charity stripe and Kovich hit both of his free throws to cut the score to 69-45.
Mauer called a timeout with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter and sat Peters and Babbitt for just over two minutes as North Valleys chopped the lead to 71-51 on a Will Bell putback.
“At times, we could’ve lost our heads, but we came back. What are we, the Los Angeles Raiders?” Mauer said of the fouls.
Actually, the Grizzlies looked more like the Los Angeles Lakers at times, and following a Kovich three to get the Panthers within 17 at 77-60, Galena got another trey from Hill to make it 80-60 at the end of the third.
After a 10-1 run in a span of 2:56, Galena had a 90-61 lead and Mauer took out Babbitt, Hill and Peters. Mauer said he didn’t know Babbitt had 48 points when he took him out.
“I know Luke was playing an outstanding game, but we didn’t want to go with the points or anything,” he said. “We did a great job defensively. Good players are going to shine. Tristan hit a couple of nice threes.
“It was nice in the second half. We got to work on some things. In the playoffs, you have to work on controlling the tempo and, in my opinion, defense. All teams score points.”
Although his team cracked the century mark, Crook was also of the mind that there’s more to winning than scoring points.
“We wanted to prove we could play defense,” Crook said. “As a team we wanted to help on Kovich. We played him with one man, but with a lot of help. If he got by, we gave some help.”
Markis “Goose” Robinson scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter for Galena, including a layup following a steal to get the Grizzlies to the 100-point mark with 57 seconds remaining.
Robinson hit one-of-two free throws to give Galena its largest lead of the game at 39 (101-62).
For North Valleys – which ended its season at 16-12 – it marked the second consecutive time the team has made the playoffs. The Panthers played in their first regional playoff game last year.
“Our crowd was awesome,” Cerfoglio said. “The kids support each other. That’s why I love being at our school. Hopefully this is not our last time (in the playoffs). I have some young guys next year. It should be fun. I’m going to miss our seniors.”
One of those seniors is Kovich, who averaged 32.8 points a game in the regular season.
“What a great kid,” Cerfoglio said. “He’s just a fabulous athlete. Some of the stuff he did was amazing.”
The same could be said for Babbitt and the Grizzlies. Galena is looking for its eighth regional championship and first state title. Even so, Crook said his team isn’t looking ahead.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Crook said. “We want to look forward, but we have to keep focused. Coach is doing a good job of not letting us think of anything but the team we’re playing.”
Now that team will be Hug.
“They have even more shooters than North Valleys,” Mauer said. “They have three outstanding shooters that I’m highly aware of. Armon Johnson is one of the best players we’ll see. It’s an interesting matchup. Those kids (the Hawks) play with a lot of heart. We’ve scouted that team out. It’s going to be awesome.”
It will also be a chance for Mauer to remove a certain goose egg from his record.
“I’ve never won at Spanish Springs (in the playoffs),” he said. “Mauer is 0-2.”
After their victory over the Miners, the Hawks improved to 24-5, numbers that are sure to get Mauer and his players motivated for Friday.