Zone championship goes to Galena |

Zone championship goes to Galena

Round two goes to Galena. In a game which epitomized the booming rivalry between Galena and South Tahoe in high school boys basketball, the Grizzlies downed the Vikings, 64-62 in overtime, to win the 1997-98 Northern Nevada 4A zone championship on Saturday night at Reno High.

Hundreds of fans were forced to wait outside as Reno High was jammed to standing room only capacity. They missed one heck of a high school basketball game, as Galena defended its zone title and avenged an earlier season loss.

“We didn’t have a great offensive night and I thought the game was a little too up-tempo. It just didn’t work out our way,” said Tahoe coach Tom Orlich, whose team lost for the first time in 17 games.

Added Tahoe senior Casey Dowling, “I don’t think we played well at all. But everything leads up to state. We’re the second seed and went undefeated through league play. Everyone puts so much into conference titles and zone titles. But the only thing that really matters is a state championship. Only a special team gets to do that.”

Galena battled back from a seven-point second-quarter deficit to go up by eight after three periods, as the Vikes managed just six points in the third. After the lead grew to as high as 10, Galena senior Brian Vaka sank one free throw to put the Grizzlies up by seven with 40 seconds left in regulation.

“When we were up by seven, I thought it was in the bag,” said Vaka, who finished with 12 points.

Seemingly out of it, Tahoe was forced to put up a few prayers – and they were answered. Dowling buried an off-balance three-pointer with 30 seconds to go. Alan Case promptly stole the inbound pass and lobbed cross-court to Aaron Buckman who quickly nailed his own from behind the half moon, cutting the lead to one with 22 seconds to go. Galena’s Doug Cordova next hit one free throw before Tahoe’s Adam Williams made a putback layup to tie it with 10 seconds left. Both teams missed good chances to win as regulation expired.

“Coach told us to keep our heads in it, that we had plenty of time. We got good defensive pressure and got shots up,” Buckman said.

In the extra frame, the teams traded baskets before a Dowling free throw gave Tahoe its first lead of the second half, 56-55, with 2:41 left. But Vaka answered with a trey and Galena hit 8-of-12 charity tosses down the stretch to secure the win.

“We’re very disappointed. But we know we can play with anyone. We beat (Galena) at home and took them to overtime here. That’s very important to know going into state,” Dowling said.

Matt Siebrandt finished with a game-high 18 points, while Lance Buoncristiani added 12. Josh David led Tahoe with 12, while Dowling added 11 and Buckman 10. The Vikings’ perennial leading scorer, Case, had 11 points, but only two in the first half.

“That was everything you’d want to see in a high school basketball game. They just didn’t hit their shots and I’ve seen them hit their shots,” said Galena coach Tom Maurer, who vowed to help Tahoe scout the Southern Nevada teams. “I’ve seen the Vegas schools play. Tahoe’s a great team. I’ll make a prediction right now that we could be playing them in the state final.”

Galena will be the North’s No. 1 seed, with Tahoe No. 2, Reno No. 3 and Sparks No. 4. State tournament play begins next Thursday in Reno. If Tahoe and Galena meet again, it would be in Saturday’s championship game.

“We can do some things we haven’t done since 1992 – win a first-round game and maybe even win the title. And now it’s South Tahoe 1, Galena 1. (At state title matchup) would be the third and final round. I really hope it comes to that,” Dowling said.

Added Vaka, “I’d love to meet South Tahoe in the final.”

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