Galena wins, Douglas falls in Maldonado
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – After winning a tougher-than-expected battle with 3A Sparks on Thursday, the Galena Grizzlies took a 56-45 victory over the scrappy Mira Loma (Sacramento) Matadors in the semifinal round of the George Maldonado Memorial Classic Friday at Galena High School.
Be that as it may, Galena coach Tom Mauer wasn’t in a back-slapping mood even though his power forward Luke Babbitt scored a game-high 28 points and his team improved to 4-4 on the season.
Mauer wasn’t especially pleased that the Grizzlies managed to keep a shorter Matador team at arm’s length the duration of the game.
“We won a game of high school basketball,” Mauer said dryly. “I hope we learn that we can win games with the ball. I hope they learn you don’t have to shoot the ball.”
Rather than run an up-tempo game or put the contest on Babbitt’s massive shoulders, Mauer wanted his team to grab a lead, exhibit good defense and play possession ball and force the Matadors into mistakes.
To that end, Galena trailed only once (2-0) and, even Mauer (almost) agreed, played pretty good defense, but Mira Loma had only seven turnovers and the Grizzlies weren’t able to capitalize on the Matadors’ 18-of-41 night shooting from the floor.
Mauer said it wasn’t a matter of numbers – Babbitt was 11-of-22 from the field – more than it was how the 6-foot-8 University of Nevada signee went about listening to his coach. And in spite of scoring eight points in less than four minutes of the fourth quarter to extend Galena’s lead to 50-41, Babbitt was sent to the bench.
“They have to learn in different ways,” Mauer said. “We’ve got to do a better job of making these guys play as a team. I thought we didn’t do a good job as a team. I thought (the Matadors) killed us on the boards.
“I think these kids are going to learn that sometimes they put too much pressure on themselves – and that goes for Luke Babbitt, too. Luke needs to relax and let the game come to him. There’s a lot of pressure having the Galena name.”
Mauer did see one positive however.
“I think the kids wanted to win,” he said. “I think they played hard.”
Besides Babbitt, Galena had five other players on the scoreboard, including Victor Walker (eight points), Markis “Goose” Robinson (seven), Scott Bristol (six) and four from transfer Deon Ashley.
A Babbitt layup gave the Grizzlies a 12-6 lead with 2 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the first quarter. After the Matadors rallied for four points, a Babbitt steal and dunk at the buzzer pushed the lead to 14-10.
A Walker bucket and a quartet of Babbitt free throws made it 20-12, with 6:01 to go in the second; however, after a Wes Kosel jumper and a pair of free throws by Anthony Windley, the Matadors closed the gap to 20-16.
Galena went on a 9-4 run, but a Ryan Loomis 3-pointer kept Mira Loma in it at 29-23 going into halftime.
The Matadors outscored Galena 14-11 in the third quarter and Windley scored a three and Brian Bulley added a basket to get the Matadors to within three at 40-37.
Windley had a team-high 15 points for Mira Loma.
Loomis, who had seven points, cut Galena’s lead to one at 40-39 to open the fourth, but Babbitt answered with a putback and Robinson came back with a bank shot.
That’s when Babbitt went on his fourth-quarter tear. But even though the Grizzlies never looked back, they were forced by Mauer to look inward.
Galena will now have a rematch with Mountain View (Mesa, Ariz.), which took a 65-55 win over the Grizz in a non-bracket matchup on Wednesday. The championship game begins at 2:30 p.m. at Galena High School.
Mauer kept it short and sweet when asked what his team will need to do today against the 9-1 Toros, who have won three consecutive 5A state championships in Arizona: “I think they have to trust each other and trust me.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW 63, DOUGLAS 38
The Douglas Tigers got off on the wrong foot Friday when starter David Laird – who has been averaging 14 points per game – didn’t have the proper attire to play against the Toros.
And even though his team was down only five points – 27-22 – at the half, Corey Thacker’s Tigers took it on the chin in the third, when Mountain View outscored them 24-9.
Four Toros scored in double figures: Eric Hunt had 15, Brendon Lavender – an Arizona signee – had 13, Nathan Murphy dropped in 12 and Tyson McLelland added 11 to lead Mountain View to the championship game against Galena.
Douglas, now 4-3, will meet Mira Loma in the third-place game at 1 p.m.
“We were short a guy today (Laird). We had to fight through it. We didn’t do it,” Thacker said. “Credit to (the Toros). They played hard. In the third quarter they got after it. Good teams do that and they’re a good team.”
Jeff Nady led the Tigers with 17 points and muscled his way to the foul line often, making 11-of-12 from the charity stripe. Kevin Emm added nine points on three 3-pointers and James McLaughlin scored seven.
“Today we had to go with some guys who don’t go in (often) to see who could step up,” Thacker said. “We have to do that. It’s one of those things you have to learn from. How we respond to adversity – that is where we learn.”
In other action Friday, Sparks beat Lowry 54-50 and Eldorado (Las Vegas) defeated Sky View, of Smithfield, Utah, 70-56.
Sparks and Eldorado will meet in the fifth-place match at 11:30 a.m. Lowry and Sky View will play at 10 a.m.