Galena falls to Artesia in Maldonado finals |

Galena falls to Artesia in Maldonado finals

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Just as an early-winter snowstorm clogged up traffic in Reno late Saturday afternoon, the Galena Grizzlies slowed down the formidable Artesia Pioneers during the first quarter of the George Maldonado Memorial Classic championship game.

The Grizzlies were fresh off an upset Friday of Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) – which was ranked No. 15 nationally by Sports Illustrated – and took a 7-6 lead into the second quarter against Artesia and held the No. 1 sophomore in the country – 6-foot-10 Renardo Sidney – without a point.

After being out-rebounded and missing several shots, the Pioneers – ranked No. 1 nationally by and No. 2 by USA Today and SI – began to turn things around in the second quarter and went on to defeat the Grizzlies, 63-40.

Artesia also took a 90-65 win over Galena in a non-bracket game on Wednesday.

“Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy,” said Artesia coach Loren Grover, whose team moved to 8-0 on the season. “We weren’t moving the ball. We’ve had four games in four days. We needed to make plays against them. They’ve got tough and physical players.

“Our defense played well and our offense played better as the game went on. Once we get some easy baskets, our defense ignites. I think (the Grizzlies) got tired. They wore out there a little bit.”

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Galena coach Tom Mauer, whose Grizzlies fell to 4-5, echoed Grover’s assessment.

“I think both teams were exceptionally tired,” Mauer said. “Everybody has been working hard. We (Galena and Artesia) had two late games (on Friday). I thought we’d have an advantage, but the school dance was tonight. I thought we’d have 250 students like we did Wednesday – and we were home.

“I thought this was a mental game, but I couldn’t get that out of the team tonight. We didn’t shoot well at all. At halftime I was excited that we were down by seven.”

Galena took the lead for the last time, 9-8, when J.D. Peters drained a 12-foot jumper with 6 minutes, 55 second remaining in the half. Artesia, on the strength of a pair of baskets by Sidney and three more by James Harden, went on a 14-6 run and took a 22-15 lead into the locker room

Galena center Luke Babbitt’s lay-up narrowed the gap to three (22-19) and his 3-pointer brought the Grizzlies back within two (24-22) with 5:00 remaining in the third quarter. Babbitt had a team-high 25 points, but no other Grizzly finished in double figures.

Sidney had a team-high 24 points, Malik Story added 16 and Harden 14 for the Pioneers, who made a concerted effort to contain Galena point guard Tristan Hill. Hill finished with five points after torching Artesia for 14 (including four 3-pointers) in the first meeting.

“They changed up on Tristan,” Mauer said. “They knew who he was. They did a great job of moving without the ball and it was one and out.”

After Sidney and Harden each scored, Galena’s Brice Crook converted a three-point play and Galena was back in it at 28-25. Sidney raced down for another lay-up, but Babbitt hit another trey to shrink the lead to 30-28.

Artesia was undeterred and its 8-3 run – highlighted by a trio of Sidney dunks – gave it a 38-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“He’s a great listener,” Grover said of Sidney, who is playing basketball for his first high school after playing exclusively on AAU teams. “He’s a real fun-loving guy. He’s a positive guy. He’s a natural leader in a lot of ways. He’s only a sophomore, but he plays a lot of times like a senior. Obviously he’s athletic. But he listens and responds well to pressure.”

Mauer said fatigue wasn’t the Grizzlies’ only problem.

“Overall we didn’t play well as a team (in the second half),” he said. “When (Artesia) ran the pick and roll, Luke did a good job, but where was our coverage down low?

“I wasn’t going to out-think this coach (Grover). If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I think we had eight turnovers at the half. I think everyone was extremely tired…it looked like the NBA and I hate the NBA.”

After Artesia extended its lead to 12 (43-31), Babbitt sank four free throws to draw the Grizzlies to within eight (43-35) with 5:58 to go in the game, but that’s as close as they would get.

The Pioneers went on a 20-5 run to put away the game.

“This game to me is mental,” Mauer said. “You have to believe you’re No. 1. You have to believe you can block out. You have to believe you are a physically tough kid. You have to believe you can shoot the shot when you’re wide open.

“I think defensively in the first half we did a decent job. They went on a bit of a run when we made (substitutions). Overall they weren’t moving either.”

Mauer was especially upset with what he perceived to be a late game let-up.

“I challenged the kids,” he said. “I wanted to get in there. With four minutes left, I had it. I raised my voice in the huddle. Suddenly it was a dunk-fest on our turnovers. At that point it wasn’t a competitive game. I don’t care as long as we lose fighting. We weren’t fighting. If they lose to Reed next week, they’ll be pissed off. So why not now?”

In other action, Mountain View (Mesa, Ariz.) beat Arlington Country Day, 71-63, for third-place, Weston Ranch (Stockton, Calif.) defeated Orem (Utah), 52-46, in the fifth-place match and Lehi (Utah) beat Douglas, 62-51, in the seventh-place game.

After five games against nationally ranked teams, the Grizzlies will now open High Desert League play on Tuesday at Reed. They will host McQueen on Thursday before heading off to the No. 1 basketball tournament in the nation: the 16-team Beach Ball Classic, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., from Dec. 26-30.

Galena will open play on Dec. 27 against Miami Senior at 10:45 a.m.

“I told the guys, ‘If you want to play at 1:45 (eastern) every day and eat at McDonald’s, it’s win (the first game) or lose,'” Mauer said. “‘If you don’t win that first game, you’re going to hate life.’ I’ve challenged them.”

Beginning Dec. 31, the Grizzlies will travel to Raleigh-Durham for three days. They will visit Duke and North Carolina State as well as take in a Charlotte Bobcats game.

Then it will be off to Las Vegas, Jan. 4-6, where they will meet Cheyenne, Foothill and Bishop Gorman before resuming league play against Fallon on Jan. 9.

Three local players – Douglas’ Keith Olsen and Galena’s Babbitt and Eric Maupin – earned all-tournament honors. Sidney was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and teammates Harden and Story were also honored.

Other all-tourney honorees were Mountain View’s Kendall Wallace and Karper Kemp and Arlington Country Day’s Devon Lamb and A.J. Stewart.