By Ray Hamill — The Loggers overcame a late first-half deficit with a big second half performance in girls basketball on Wednesday night, remaining unbeaten in the Big 5 and atop the standings.
The Eureka girls traveled to McKinleyville for what was arguably their toughest league test yet, but came away with a 53-42 win.
“I was happy to get the win. It’s a tricky environment,” said Eureka head coach Michael Harvey, whose team improved to 3-0 in conference and 12-4 overall.
To get it, the visitors had to overcome the trademark Panthers intensity, which gave them trouble late in the first half.
Trailing by five with a little over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the home team closed out the half with an impressive run, unsettling the Loggers with their pressure defense and coming away with several steals, including two key takeaways by Cameron Heenan and Hope Kibby.
The home team briefly took the lead after a Kibby steal set up a Rayn Tripp layup 30 seconds before halftime.
It didn’t last, however, with Paige Lyons giving Eureka the slenderest of leads heading into the break, after a buzzer-beating put-back.
Lyons, Napoleon step up
Lyons was instrumental in the win, finishing with 15 points, including going 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.
Lyons and fellow senior Makaila Napoleon kept the visitors in contention in the first half, accounting for 19 of their team’s 27 points over the first two periods.
The ever-dangerous Napoleon finished with a game-high 16 points, and was dangerous again both inside the paint and from 3-point range.
After the break, however, the Loggers pulled away, holding the Panthers to just six points in the third quarter to lead by nine heading into the final period.
The visitors continued to pull away in the fourth, immediately stretching the advantage to 17 points on back-to-back 3-pointers from Napoleon and Dorshaela Wesson and ending the game as a contest.
“It was a nice second half for us,” Harvey said. “I think our defense did a good job as a whole, especially on Rayn Tripp.
“And I thought our zone defense did really well getting out to the perimeter and defending that.”
Challenging run for Panthers
Sophomore Cameron Heenan, who is enjoying an outstanding season for the Panthers, finished with 10 points in the loss, while Tripp and Theresia Dickey each finished with nine points.
Rian Heenan added seven points for the Panthers, who dropped to 10-8.
It was the McKinleyville girls’ second loss to the Loggers this season and their fifth straight, although all five have come against quality opposition.
McKinleyville’s past five opponents, in fact, are a combined 58-10 against other teams this season.
The tough run will continue for the Panthers on Friday, when they host a high-flying Del Norte team that is 13-1.
Eureka, meanwhile, will host Hoopa Valley on Thursday.