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A step up, a knockdown

Grizzlies challenge state’s 12th-ranked team, but the Eagles pull away late to hand Golden Valley

Posted: January 24, 2009 9:58 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

AZUSA - Etiwanda scored a big victory against Golden Valley - but the Eagles sure had to work for it.

A strong fourth quarter helped Etiwanda pull away at the SoCal Shootout and hand Golden Valley a 75-51 loss, the Grizzlies' first setback since Dec. 22.

The game was still in doubt, however, midway through the third quarter. Golden Valley's Maverick Ahanmisi hit a driving basket while being fouled to cut Etiwanda's lead to 41-38.

From there, the Eagles (15-4) went on a 14-5 run to close the quarter and dominated the fourth thanks to their transition game, which feasted off missed baskets by Golden Valley.

The Grizzlies cancelled an earlier non-league game against West Covina when offered the chance to face Etiwanda, which is ranked 12th in the state according to calpreps.com.

"A lot of people asked me why I took this game," said Golden Valley head coach Chris Printz. "I'd be a hypocrite if I hadn't taken the game. One of the things we've said for five years is we want to test our program against the best, and if you're given an opportunity, you've got to take it."

Golden Valley (19-2) took advantage of the opportunities provided by Etiwanda, which missed several close shots in the first few minutes. The Grizzlies jumped out to a 9-2 lead before Etiwanda countered with a 13-0 run.

The two teams traded punches for most of the first half, and Golden Valley had to scrap for points once Etiwanda's physicality limited its motion offense.

"We had a tough time with how physical the game was allowed to be played," Printz said. "We were able to get a lot of back cuts for layups, and after awhile, they just started grabbing us, and if we're not allowed to move on a back cut, it makes it very hard for our motion offense to get layups."

The hot-shooting of Stevie Thornton helped Golden Valley stay within striking distance. Thornton put up 15 of his game-high 25 points in the first half.

"Thornton's an incredible shooter," said Etiwanda head coach Dave Kleckner. "We had no idea he was that good, so we made some adjustments on him and made him take some more difficult shots."

Despite being undersized against the Eagles, Golden Valley did a good job limiting high-percentage looks down low by rotating and pressuring the ball on the perimeter.

"We just had to stay in the passing lanes and guard their big guys," said Golden Valley guard Chris White. "In our walkthrough, we worked on doubling in the post because (the Eagles) are not looking to shoot.

They're just looking to attack the basket."

Etiwanda took an eight-point lead into halftime and fended off Golden Valley until late in the third quarter, when the Eagles' overall athleticism took over.

"We all had a hand in it, it was a team effort," said Etiwanda's Deronn Scott.

Center Perris Blackwell led Etiwanda with 18 points, and guard Jordan Finn had 16, including 12 in the second half.

Ahanmisi finished with nine points and Trevor Wiseman had six in support of Thornton, who was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.

That kind of challenge, however, is just what Golden Valley was looking for.

"We took it for the challenge, not to play a low team to boost our morale," White said. "We took this to see what kind of team we are this year coming off of last year, and we're a better team."

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