Galena beats Tahoe in title game
CARSON CITY – There was an upstart-versus-the-establishment clash in the Northern Nevada 4A zone boys basketball finals Saturday.
And the times – they are a changing.
Galena knocked off South Tahoe in overtime, 44-41, to win the championship on Saturday at Carson High.
A crowd of more than 2,500 packed Morse Burley Gymnasium. They saw Galena’s Lance Buoncristiani hit for seven of his 12 points in the four extra minutes, including a three-pointer that gave the Grizzlies the lead for good with two minutes to play.
Tahoe’s Alan Case closed it to 42-41 at the 30-second mark, burying a straight-on, lofting trey with a trio of Grizzlies in his face. But the Vikes, who hadn’t committed a team foul in the entire half, were forced to start hacking and Buoncristiani closed the deal with a pair of charity tosses at :16. Tahoe’s three-ball attempts to tie it at the end fell short.
“We ran our offense, basically, looking for a good shot. But once we got down five, we started pressing,” said Viking senior Nick Romagnolo. “We fought back, but Lance came up big with his free throws. I really didn’t expect him to make them.”
The loss marks the first time in 11 years, barring a state title effort this week in Reno, that Tahoe hasn’t won a title. “It’s tough on us. We grew up seeing those consecutive titles,” Romagnolo said.
“The bottom line is you can’t win every year,” said Vikes’ coach Tom Orlich. “At least we were in it, with a chance to win. That’s what it’s all about. I’m very proud of the effort our kids put forth.”
On the flip side, Galena’s win marks the first boys basketball zone title in the school’s five-year history. Coach Tom Maurer said that upending the “Tahoe mystique” wasn’t a motivating factor for his sqaud.
“This was just a game for the zone championship, not about tradition. Our kids didn’t know and we didn’t tell them that Tahoe had won 10 straight (league or zone titles),” Maurer said. “We happen to be at the top of the swing right now. Things all go in cycles – except up at the lake. He has taken this group of kids and molded them into his program and done an outstanding job. I can’t emphasize enough about what a great coach (Orlich) is. Every team wants to be like South Tahoe.”
To Maurer’s credit, his squad played a superb execution game. The Grizzlies were selective on offense and determined while defending in a contest in which neither team gained more than a six-point advantage.
Doug Wilson nailed two free throws with :23 left in the first half to push Tahoe’s lead to 18-12. But Brian Vaka answered with a three-pointer as time expired.
Greg Bruso hit a cutting Case for a layup as the fourth period started, putting Tahoe up by two. Brian Vaka rallied with a deuce. Tahoe countered with a Romagnolo offensive board and putback, which Vaka again reciprocated.
Tahoe’s final bucket in regulation came with 2:35 to go. While the Galena bench was yelling to its defenders, “He can’t dribble, get up on him,” Doug Wilson bolted down the lane past Vaka, crossed his dribble on a spin move in the key and buried a floating layup for a two-point lead.
After Vaka tied it, the Vikings had an open shot to win with two seconds to go, but Romagnolo’s 15-footer hit the front iron.
“They let us run it down and we were looking for an open shot. My man left me to help someone else. I was wide open, just a little short. That’s my shot, baseline 15-footer. I’ll make 6 out of 10 of those. I guess it just wasn’t meant ot be,” Romagnolo said.
Galena won the tip in overtime and held it more two minutes before Buoncristiani, who finished with two three-pointers, nailed a layup.
“Yeah, we won it. But we’re all from the North and now we all have to come together for state,” Buoncristiani said.
Maurer agreed with his sophomore point guard.
“It’s real important to be loyal to each other now to attack the South. We’ve got to show them that we’ve all really worked hard and that we can take it to them,” Maurer said.
Casey Dowling finished with 10 points and Case had nine, while Wilson and Romognolo each collected eight. Vaka had a game-high 22 points, including four three-balls.
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