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Grover leads Hawks past Raiders
Josh Grover, a starter for Gila Ridge most of the season, started the Gila Valley Region Tournament on the bench.
It didn't keep him from playing what Hawks coach Derek Bosch called his smartest game of the year.
Grover scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and made nine of his 10 foul shots as the No. 4 Hawks won at No. 3 Cibola 54-46 on Tuesday, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
"As long as I can help my team, I'll do it from wherever - the bench, the seats, it doesn't matter," Grover said. "As long as we get the 'W.'"
Gila Ridge never trailed in the fourth quarter of the game - which didn't count toward AIA power point standings, in which the Hawks finished just outside the state playoffs at 17th. But the Raiders - whose playoff berth is fairly secure, finishing the regular season at 11th - cut into the 47-41 lead with a five-point run.
Grover turned the ball over on the next two possessions - one on a travel, the other on a charge - but two Cibola misses preserved the Gila Ridge lead, then Lance McLaren scored on a layup to expand the Hawks' lead to 49-46.
"Grover is very tough to guard off the dribble, and first half he took advantage of that," Bosch said. "The second half they collapsed on him and he turned it over a couple times. But we calmed him down, and he played smart tonight. It was as smart as I've seen him play."
Grover made five of six free throws in the final 40 seconds as the Hawks kept Cibola with out a point in the final 3:01.
"We turned the ball over too many times and missed too many free throws," Cibola coach Tim Keller said. "That's the end of the story."
McLaren finished with 14 points and rebounds for the Hawks, while Garrett Firestone led the Raiders with 20 points and was one of four Raiders with a team-high four rebounds.
The winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid into the state playoffs. And while the Raiders are in, the Hawks need wins tonight at No. 2 Kofa - which beat Yuma High 90-40 on Tuesday - and then at No. 1 Lake Havasu on Friday to make the playoffs.
"We just knew we were the underdog and they were coming to get the easy victory," Grover said. "We had to come in and fight for it."
Cibola had small early leads at 7-3 and 20-17. After Gila Ridge went up 26-20 in the second quarter, Cibola went up 34-31 in the third. But after tying the game at 35, the Hawks scored the last four points of the quarter - two on a bucket by Grover and the others on a coast-to-coast layup by McLaren at the buzzer.
Corey Semler scored 11 for the Hawks, who were 16-for-20 from the line. The Raiders made nine of 17 free-throw attempts.
"We don't let this bother us," Keller said. "The nice thing is we get to work on our man-to-man defense and our man-to-man offense. We've seen so many zones, and now we're going to face the Phoenix teams and they're going to play man-to-man. It gives us a chance to work it out and practice. We'll be fine."