By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Galena coach Matt Meyr said there will be no lack of motivation when his Bulldogs face the Riverton Rams tonight at Galena High School.
“This is a big game all the time with it being a close-town rivalry,” Meyr said. “But they’re coming off a loss, and Riverton beat us the last time we played. So both teams have extra motivation.”
The boys matchup also is a key one in the CNC League standings. Galena, the defending champion, is 3-0 in the league and 12-4 overall. Riverton, the preseason favorite, is 2-1 in the CNC and 10-5 overall after a 52-50 loss to Frontenac on Friday. The league appears to be coming down to a four-team race with St. Mary’s-Colgan and Frontenac also boasting 3-0 records.
Tonight’s game is especially crucial for the Rams if they want to have a chance at the CNC crown.
“We can’t afford to drop another one,” Riverton coach Zach Martin said. “I think someone can win the league with one loss, but we have to take care of business moving forward. We got to go out and play our game.”
In the loss to Frontenac, the Rams were hit by a 3-point barrage. The game was tied at 8 at the end of the first quarter, but the Raiders scored 26 points in the second quarter with 18 coming from 3-pointers. More treys in the third helped Frontenac gain a 21-point lead. Riverton battled back to tie the game and was trying for the final shot. However, the Rams were called for charging with six seconds left, and Frontenac’s Brett Macary hit a shot at the buzzer to win it.
“Obviously, the kids were disappointed, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way they battled back,” Martin said. “It would have been real easy to check it in with the way they were shooting. If we play with that mentality every game, we’re going to be OK.”
Galena, which was tied for fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll, has defeated Baxter Springs and posted close wins over Girard and Columbus since league play started.
Ironically, the Bulldogs also gained confidence from an early-season loss to Riverton. The Rams held off Galena 39-36 in early January at Riverton.
“Riverton was picked to win the league, and I don’t know if the kids were sure they could play with them,” Meyr said. “This time, we will be more confident and not as nervous.”
The Bulldogs stopped the Rams from being able to play their up-tempo style and held a lead in the fourth quarter.
“They did a great job of dictating the tempo in the last game,” Martin said. “They kind of lured us into playing their game. We can’t let them control the tempo. We’re at our best when we’re playing in transition and creating offense from our defense. They did a good job of taking that away last time.”
Galena is led by Deven Newman with 15 points per game. Senior Ray Slimp averages 8.4 points and has played especially well in league play.
“Ray Slimp was our leading scorer at Girard and again on Friday night in the win over Baxter Springs,” Meyr said. “The senior has really stepped it up in league play.”
Landon North and freshman Grant North lead the Rams with about 13 points per game each. Dylan Weaver averages about 10.