The McKinleyville Panthers overcame an early deficit with some stellar defense on Friday night, defeating Casa Grande 68-57 and advancing to the championship game of their own Rotary Tip-Off tournament.
The Arcata Tigers also won their tournament game on Friday, defeating Lower Lake 69-56.
For the second straight night, Isaac Puzz led the Panthers in scoring with 23 points, but it was the team defense that stood out.
“We played hard, we played real hard,” McKinleyville head coach Sonny Tripp said. “And we played team basketball. I was really happy with the our defense.”
The Panthers trailed by six after the opening quarter, but held the visitors to just 19 points combined over the next two periods to open up a seven-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
And that defense has been the most impressive aspect of the team’s fast start to the tournament.
“Our defense has stepped up completely,” Tripp said. “We’re buying into the press, buying into defending the whole court, and it takes all of us to do that.”
AJ Stubbs also had a big night for McKinleyville, finishing with 19 points, including 7-of-9 free throws, while Craig Peterson added eight points.
McKinleyville will play Heritage for the championship at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Arcata 69, Lower Lake 56
The Tigers rebounded from an opening-day loss to Casa Grande at the Mack tournament to defeat Lower Lake on Friday afternoon.
Garrett Hall led the Tigers with 20 points including going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as Arcata held off the Trojans.
Hunter Santsche and Jaden Gorge each added 16 points in the win, as the Tigers stretched a two-point halftime lead to 12 with a big third quarter.
Niko Zambas finished with eight points for Arcata, which plays Lincoln at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.