The Golden Valley basketball team found itself trailing Palmdale for most of the night in its season opener on Wednesday at Golden Valley High School.
The Grizzlies kept fighting, however, crawling their way back from a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and eventually grabbing their first lead of the game on a Kenan Quila 3-pointer with less than two minutes left in the contest.
The big shot gave Golden Valley a 55-54 advantage which the team carried to the final whistle, defeating Palmdale 64-61.
“I’ve seen him do it. I know he’s ready for this because he prepared himself,” Golden Valley head coach Larry Keys said about Quila’s game-changing shot. “I was happy for him. I knew it going in would give him confidence the next time we’re in that situation to take that shot.”
“It was just a lot of emotions going through my head. This is a big one for us,” Quila added.
The Grizzlies didn’t get off to the best start, falling behind 14-6 early after a series of turnovers and missed shots.
Golden Valley trailed 14-10 at the end of the first quarter and 31-22 at halftime.
Sophomore big men Josiah Gatewood and Braxton Williams tried to get things going in the paint, with the former scoring seven points and grabbing three rebounds in the first half to lead the way for Golden Valley.
“They are versatile,” Keys said about his young big men. “Josiah, I’d be curious to find a better athlete in this league than him. Braxton is a skilled big man. He hit a corner jumper at one point. You’re going to see different things from them. You’re going to see a complete floor game.”
Golden Valley came out with more fire in the second half, battling defensively against a bigger Palmdale team.
Quila and his backcourt running mate senior Josh Martin were able to get things going by hitting shots and finding open teammates.
Sophomore Julian January was all over the court and played tough defense against the opposing team’s best player, in addition to hitting big shots.
January is one of the many players on a deep roster expected to make a big contribution this season.
“Tonight it was Julian January who really stepped up and played amazing, but I imagine the next time we play it’ll be somebody else,” Keys said. “We just have that kind of team that on any given night it can be someone else. We have a lot of depth and the guys believe in each other.”
Sophomore Cameron McRae, who had missed his first five 3-pointers, fired off one more shot from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter when Martin found him open in the corner.
McRae hit the shot, which brought the Grizzlies within two points and led to a shift in momentum.
Moments later Quila hit the big 3-pointer to give Golden Valley the lead.
“It means we have a strong mentality. I feel like we never give up,” Quila said. “Our mentality coming into the second half when we were down was this is a new game. We needed new life. Cameron was big for us and that started it all.”
Ultimately, it was the Grizzlies grit and determination that got them back in the game.
Diving for loose balls, taking charges and applying full-court pressure to force turnovers seemed to be the theme for the night.
Keys believes that type of play will be a season-long theme for his squad.
“That’s kind of been the character of this team, we really get after it,” Keys said. “We’re young so we’re going to put ourselves in tough situations from time to time, but our weakness is our strength in that sense because they just believe.
“They have bought into what we’re trying to teach, bought into the fact that we can get back into every game with our defense, our hustle and our determination and they showed it today.”
Golden Valley’s next game will be against Arcadia on Monday, Nov. 19 at Golden Valley High School. The game is set to tip off at 7 p.m.