Galena nearly pulls off the upset |

Galena nearly pulls off the upset

Appeal Staff Report

The Galena High boys basketball team was on the verge of spoiling the party at the Tampa Hoops Classic.

Galena was closing in on a shocking upset – and certainly one of the greatest wins in the program’s history – but then the tournament’s No. 1 seed was able to escape with the win.

American Heritage of Ft. Laurderdale, Fla., one of the nation’s top teams, escaped with a 78-68 win on Thursday at the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida. Galena never trailed until there were five minutes left in the game.

The Grizzlies led 23-18 after one quarter, 33-30 at halftime and 56-52 after three quarters. But then with five minutes left, American Heritage began a parade to the foul line, shooting 21 free throws after shooting just four up to that point.

Galena coach Tom Maurer, though, stressed that he didn’t want to blame the officiating for the loss. He said his team needs to learn how to deal with adversity down the stretch. “We’ve got to finish the deal,” Maurer said.

Still, Maurer said he was “ecstatic” with his team’s effort. “I thought our kids did a great job,” he said.

American Heritage features three of the nation’s top players. Kenny Boynton is one of the top five juniors in the country while 6-10 Eloy Vargas, who has committed to Florida, is one of the top 10 players in the country. There’s also 5-5 Raymond Taylor, who is being called the next Mugsy Bogues.

Due in large part of the defense of Deon Ashley, Galena held Boynton to 12 points in the first half. Boynton finished with 33 points and shot nine free throws in the fourth quarter. Boynton scored 61 points in a tournament last week.

Maurer said among those who helped Ashley defend Boynton were Jake Mansfield and Goose Robinson. Maurer also said much of the responsibility of guarding Tayler fell on Robinson.

Vargas scored 16 points and shot seven free throws in the fourth quarter. He only scored five points in the second half.

Luke Babbitt scored 25 points, Robinson had 21 points and Mansfield had 13 points for Galena.

“They had the chance to play one of the best teams they’ll play if not the best team they’ll play all year,” Maurer said.

Maurer said his team will be tested again at 2 p.m. today when it plays Florida’s Plant. Plant led the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Bishop Loughlin of Brooklyn, N.Y., by three at halftime before losing.