By Jeremy Balan
DALY CITY — Galileo Academy was rolling through the Blue and Gold Tournament at Jefferson High School.
That was until the Lions ran into one of the City’s best defensive teams in the tournament championship game on Friday night.
Lowell (3-1) limited Galileo (2-1) to just six points in the first half and cruised to a 45-28 win.
With a clock-eating motion offense, the Cardinals shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and put the game out of reach early in the third quarter.
“It’s the best game we’ve played this year,” said Lowell head coach Rob Ray. “It’s something about what we do here, that our defense is always something we fall back on.”
The Cardinals got 11 points apiece from guards Jonathon Li and Avery Nicastro-Aikman, but it was senior forward Max Pollard that Ray highlighted after the game.
Pollard didn’t score a point and only took one shot from the floor, but led the standout defensive effort.
“In the [Academic Athletic Association] there are a lot of athletic teams and we have to find something else,” Pollard said. “We make it up with an intelligent offense and on defense we really just play hard and make them take shots they don’t want to take. We pride ourselves in that.”
The Lions shot just over 26 percent from the floor, but that number is even deceiving, due to a late Galileo push against Lowell’s second team in the fourth quarter. Galileo only had six field goals through three quarters and trailed 32-15 heading into the fourth.
“It was a combination of both our cold shooting and their defense,” said Galileo head coach Jeremy Lee. “It got contagious. Once shots weren’t going down, everyone was trying so hard to make something go in. It just snowballed from there.”
Nicastro-Aikman was named the tournament’s most valuable player and was the Cardinals’ biggest scoring threat early. The senior used his size advantage over Galileo’s group of smaller guards to work into the paint for easy baskets.
“They’re a little bit smaller, so we started out bigger guards,” Ray said. “We thought he would take advantage of that and he did.”
Lowell’s best defensive effort was on Galileo senior forward Max Betowski, who scored a team-high nine points, but on 3-of-15 shooting.
“This is probably the first game he realized he will be the focal point [of opposing defenses],” Lee said. “I don’t think he is used to all the attention he was getting, especially from a team like Lowell, which is really going to try to take away whatever your strong suit is.”
Betowski, a transfer from Lick-Wilmerding who had to sit out last season, had an excellent tournament and will need to play a key role if the Lions want to do some damage in the AAA.
“He can really play inside out,” Lee said. “He can go down low, he handles the ball really well on the perimeter and he can play to the mismatches that way. The intangible he brings, though, is that he’s not only our best player, but he’s the hardest working.”
The Cardinals were undoubtedly the best team in the tournament and showed improvement in the finale, which they hope bodes well for the future.
“We have a sense that we can deal with adversity,” Pollard said. “Last year, when we went down in big games, we were pretty much beaten. In this tournament, we were down against Aragon, and to Washington at the end of the game, and showed true composure.”
Jonathon Li — 11
Avery Nicastro-Aikman — 11
Jackson Miao — 9
Taylor Tsang — 4
Two players tied with 3 points
Max Betowski — 9
Christopher Lee — 8
Jacob Glasov — 5
Brion Gregorson — 4
Kyle Fung — 2