Galena boys to host North Valleys
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Yes, his team has finished unbeaten in the High Desert League for two consecutive seasons. Yes, it faced seven nationally ranked teams this year. And yes, his 6-foot-8 forward, Luke Babbitt, has to practically use a cattle prod to get a break from interested college coaches.
But forgive Galena coach Tom Mauer if he isn’t resting comfortably as his Grizzlies head into tonight’s Northern 4A regional playoff game with North Valleys.
Mauer was a spectator at Monday’s play-in game at Damonte Ranch High School, where North Valleys defeated Carson, 79-75, to advance to the regionals.
“After watching the game, I think those guys (the Panthers) are very, very dangerous,” Mauer said Tuesday. “Their guys can shoot from anywhere. It’s tough to take them out of that stuff.
“Carson tried to take them out at the top of the key, but they can shoot from the volleyball line. (North Valleys guard) Archie Kovich only had 15 points and they still won.”
North Valleys broke out its long-range artillery against Carson, connecting on 12 3-pointers, with only one coming from Kovich, who was averaging 32.8 points per game headed into the contest.
Craig Davidson made the Senators pay for putting two bodies on Kovich and drained six treys. He got some help from Mike Stefanson, who hit three more, and three other players (including Kovich), who each added one.
“I like the way they rebound,” Mauer said of the Panthers, who improved to 16-11 and earned the Sierra League’s fourth seed with the win. “And they didn’t have many turnovers.”
They also weren’t selected as the No. 1 team in Nevada by Sports Illustrated in its high school preview. That distinction belonged to Galena, which finished 12-0 in the High Desert League and is 18-9 overall.
Mauer pushed his team into the deep end of the pool from the first game of the year, when it faced No. 16 Archbishop Mitty, in San Jose, Calif. Although the Grizzlies lost to the Monarchs, 76-60, they came back in their next game to take a 59-56 victory over defending Class 4A state champion Reno.
Galena then went on to meet No. 17 Westchester (Los Angeles) and No. 2 Artesia (Lakewood, Calif.) twice and knocked off nationally ranked Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) in the George Maldonado Classic in December.
The Grizzlies followed with a visit to the prestigious Beach Ball Classic, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they lost, 56-52, to No. 14 St. John’s Prep (Washington, D.C.) and 70-64, to Scott County (Kentucky’s No. 1 team).
Mauer and his team got a preview of Nevada’s southern teams, beating Cheyenne and losing to Foothill and Bishop Gorman before finally returning home to begin conference play.
“(The games in Las Vegas) were our 12th, 13th and 14th nights in row in a hotel room,” Mauer said. “We were up by 14 at the half against Gorman and when we saw we could play and kick butt, we fell apart. The kids couldn’t wait to get home.”
Since returning home, Galena has been dominant, allowing no team to finish closer than 14 points.
“I think we represented ourselves well,” Mauer said. “I wasn’t pleased (after losing to Archbishop Mitty), but I thought we grew from there. I think things are finally going the right way for our program. The kids are focused and are listening. Luke has done a good job taking the colleges out.”
At the behest of Babbitt – who has narrowed his choices to Arizona, Ohio State, Gonzaga, UCLA and Nevada – Mauer said he has asked the recruiters to give his junior a two-week break.
Babbitt is averaging 26.7 points and 10 rebounds in roughly 20 minutes per game.
“Luke has a big body, is tall and overshadows everyone,” Mauer said. “When I asked him if he could possibly guard Archie, he said, ‘Coach, I’m plugged in this week.’ His last two weeks have been phenomenal.”
Mauer said Babbitt may or may not end up guarding Kovich, but in either case he will have help from four seniors – 6-foot-6 forward Eric Maupin (6.4 ppg, 5 rpg), 6-3 point guard J.D. Peters (8.6 ppg. 5 rpg), 6-4 guard Brice Crook (10.6 ppg) and 6-5 guard Tristan Hill (8.7 ppg).
Among those who Mauer said hasn’t gotten enough credit for his play is Peters, a team-captain.
The Grizzlies are shooting a collective 51 percent from the floor, 71 percent from the free-throw line and 40 percent from 3-point range. They are also averaging 30 rebounds per contest.
“They have a great shot selection,” Mauer said. “By far it’s one of my best shooting teams. Teams that zone us will have issues – on paper.”
Mauer has been Galena’s only head coach – he’s in his 15th season – and his teams have won seven regional championships. And while the Grizzlies are hoping to win their first state championship, Mauer said they’re not looking that far ahead.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” he said. “I say defense wins. The team thinks offense wins. We’re going to find out in the next week if they buy in.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Galena High School.
In other 4A regional playoff games (all of which begin tonight at 7 p.m.), Reno (23-5) hosts McQueen (11-14), Hug (23-5) hosts Manogue (17-9) and Reed (15-12) hosts Douglas (21-8).
The Northern 4A regional champion will advance to next week’s four-team Class 4A state championship in Las Vegas.
•Contact Mike Houser at firstname.lastname@example.org or881-1220