By Ray Hamill — Eight points separated McKinleyville and Hoopa Valley for the second time in three weeks on Thursday, only this time the Panthers were on the winning end.
McKinleyville opened the Logger Classic with an 80-72 win over the Warriors, setting up a semifinal matchup with Dougherty Valley on Friday.
And the difference this time around for Mack?
“Sage was one of the differences, and Tom was another,” McKinleyville head coach Sonny Tripp said, referring to senior Sage Watrous de Salinas and junior Thomas Locatelli.
The two Mack standouts missed the first game between the two teams, but each was on hand this time to help give the Panthers a size advantage against a smaller and quicker Warriors team.
“We were able to bring it down low a little bit,” Tripp said.
The Panthers turned in a balanced performance, with several players contributing.
Seniors AJ Stubbs and Isaac Puzz led the team in scoring with 18 and 17 points, respectively, with Jake White finishing with 15 points and Locatelli 12 points.
“We’re looking for that,” Tripp said of the balance. “We’re asking Puzz to spread the ball around. We want to take some of the pressure off of him.”
With the win, the Panthers improved to 4-4 on the season, while the Warriors suffered just their second loss, dropping to 7-2.
Hoopa’s George Navarro continued his impressive start to the season, finishing with 33 points in the loss, while teammate Wade Nixon finished with 21 points.
“Hoopa is a great team. They play with energy the whole game, they’re well-coached and they have a toughness,” Tripp said. “They’re fun to play against.”
Defensively, the Mack coach was not pleased with his team’s performance, as the game broke out into a shootout, particularly in the third quarter.
“I thought we were matching buckets for too long, and they got a lot of second chances,” Tripp said.
Arcata 40, Dougherty Valley 67
The Tigers were unable to overcome a slow start to Thursday’s game with Dougherty Valley, falling behind 24-2 in the opening quarter.
Hunter Santsche scored a team-high 11 points for Arcata, which dropped to 2-5 on the season.
Cameron Dart added eight points in the loss, while Jack Taylor had six.
The Tigers will continue tournament play on Friday against Hoopa Valley at 4 p.m.
Eureka 78, Sutter 33
The Loggers welcomed back most of their players this week to give head coach Robbie Thompson a full roster for the first time this season, and the players responded with their first win of the year.
Thompson had just two players with any varsity experience for the opening two weekends of the season, with most of his roster still playing football.
But they rejoined the team this week, and the difference was immediately evident.
“We played pretty sound,” Thompson said. “The football guys are still catching on, still thinking, but overall their energy helped us out a lot. I’m excited about that.”
Alyxs Chanthabury came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points in the win, while teammate Grant Berrera scored 17.
Jaeden Thayer and Gary Jimenez each also scored eight points, while Cahliel Garner had seven.
The Loggers (1-6) play league rivals Fortuna at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Fortuna 62, Stellar Prep 26
The Huskies welcomed back senior Zac Claus and continued to roll, winning their ninth straight game to start the season.
Drew Gillette again led the team offensively, scoring a game-high 25 points, while Claus had an immediate impact with 15 points after rejoining the team this week from a long playoff run in football.
The Huskies, who are ranked No. 1 in the state among Division-IV schools, continue tournament action on Saturday against Eureka.
South Fork 70, Madison Park Academy 63
The Cubs won their opening game at the California School for the Deaf Holiday Classic on Thursday, rallying to beat Madison Park Academy.
South Fork trailed by seven at the half but outscored the Oakland school 25-18 in the third quarter to tie things up going into the final period.
And the Cubs made the momentum count, pulling away for the win and improving to 5-6 on the season.
The Cubs continue tournament action on Saturday.
Ferndale 46, CSD 43
The Cats remained hot and improved to 6-1 on the season with a narrow three-point win over the host school at the California School for the Deaf Holiday Classic on Thursday.
With the score tied 20-20 at halftime, the Cats pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring the home team 16-4 for the period.
And they were able to hold on for the win despite a late rally by CSD.