By Ray Hamill — The McKinleyville girls basketball team ended a 17-game losing streak in the Big 5 with an emphatic win over their closest rivals on Wednesday night.
The Panthers pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back on the way to the 66-38 victory at Arcata High, in both teams’ league opener.
It was the Panthers’ first win in the Big 5 since Feb. 10, 2016, and ends a streak that included back-to-back winless league campaigns.
And they did it in style, knocking off the six-time defending league champions on their own court with a dominating performance.
“I thought the difference was our intensity and full-court pressure,” McKinleyville head coach Tony McClure said. “And I thought we handled their pressure well.”
The win lifts the Panthers to 8-3, leaving them one win shy of matching last year’s win total less than halfway through the season.
A new-look and young Arcata team dropped its third straight to fall to 6-5.
Back and forth
There was little between the two teams early on in what was a back-and-forth opening quarter, which featured five lead changes.
The Panthers, however, took control of the clash in the second quarter, stretching a one-point lead to 15 before halftime, with a Theresia Dickey buzzer-beating 3-pointer putting an exclamation mark on the quarter.
The McKinleyville girls also showcased their depth, with six different players accounting for the team’s 26 points for the period.
Rayn Tripp led the way scoring wise for the visitors, finishing with a game-high 22 points, including 10 in the second quarter.
Rian Heenan added eight points in the win, while Dickey, Grace Rosebrook and Hope Kibby each finished with six points.
Both teams benefited from a deep performance, with 22 players combined getting in on the scoring, in part because each coach went to their benches with the lopsided score.
“We started off a little slow and struggled, like we did last night too (in a loss at St. Bernard’s),” McClure said. “But I rotated deep in that first quarter and I felt that helped with our energy levels.”
Big third quarter
If the Panthers took control of the game in the second quarter, they emphatically ended it as a contest in the third, running out to a 15-0 run and holding the home team scoreless until the final two minutes of the period.
Tripp again was instrumental, opening the quarter with a statement 3-pointer, and scoring nine of those 15 points.
Rosebrook also had another big performance, directing traffic and providing a spark defensively with some big steals.
The Tigers had way too many turnovers in that third quarter, and trailed by as many as 34 midway through the final quarter, before closing the gap a little with some late hustle and fight.
The win was the second for the McKinleyville girls over their closest rivals this season, having also beaten them at the Arcata tournament.
Next up for Arcata is a trip to St. Bernard’s on Friday, while the Panthers play Carson on the day after Christmas at the Tracy tournament.