Golden Valley Grizzlies boys’ basketball is having a terrific summer and off-season.
The Grizzlies finished second at the Big Valley Summer Classic tournament at Pierce College on Saturday after falling to the Paraclete Spirits in the championship game.
The Grizzlies lost, 47-39, but posted an impressive second-half comeback for the second straight game. Golden Valley played a miserable opening half and trailed the Spirits 28-7 at halftime.
Paraclete ran a tight 2-3 zone, which didn’t give the Grizzlies many options in the paint. Golden Valley thrives off the deep ball, but just couldn’t knock down more than three shots in the opening half.
The Grizzlies regrouped, found better shots and upped the defensive intensity to spark the comeback that nearly stole the BVSC title right from under Paraclete.
Kaleb Melara led the Grizzlies with 12 points.
Golden Valley rode a 17-3 run with less than eight minutes left in the game, but the first half’s scoring drought was just too much to overcome.
It wasn’t the ending the team had in mind, but assistant coach Scott Barker was proud of his team’s defensive execution in crunch time.
“They’ve always been very good defensively,” Barker said. “Which is a testament to today. They only give up 47 to this team, which is a pretty darn good team. This is by far the best team we’ve seen in this tournament. To hold them to 47 points is a really big deal.”
The Grizzlies had similar woes in their semifinals matchup with Notre Dame’s “Youngsters” team. The Youngsters led 32-21 at halftime but just couldn’t hold off the surging Grizzlies in the second half.
Golden Valley stormed back into the game thanks to some tight defense at the top of the key from guards Melara, Tristan Tiu and Angelo Sampson.
The three totaled eight steals, a portion of which fueled a 9-0 Golden Valley run before Sampson gave the team its first lead of the game with a steal and score to go up 42-41 late in the second half.
Golden Valley started finding better shots on offense and back-to-back 3-pointers from Alex Villejo gave the team enough breathing room to pull away in crunch time.
The Grizzlies opened up the tournament with a pair of lopsided wins, beating Sylmar 64-46 and taking down Buckley 75-40. The scores are evident of the team’s impressive summer as the group is now 14-4 in the offseason.
The BVSC draws teams from schools all over Southern California. Hart also competed in the tournament but took some tough losses to Highland and Westlake. Valencia topped the podium in last year’s tournament in a bracket with Saugus and Canyon.
Golden Valley is typically undersized on the court but that didn’t stop any of its eight players from launching after loose balls from the glass.
“It didn’t show as much today but we still rebound the ball a whole lot better than our size indicates,” Barker said. “We battled like crazy for those rebounds and we’re undersized against everybody.”
Only four members of the Grizzlies’ summer squad are varsity returners from last season, so the experience over summer could be the difference maker in getting the newcomers ready for the varsity level.
“Oh absolutely, we’re excited,” Barker added. “We’re looking forward to the season. We’re very young. In this group, there are four sophomores and a freshman.”
The Grizzlies will look to continue their dominant summer through camp and more summer tournaments in the coming weeks with just four months until the regular season begins.