A pair of Big 5 teams put some separation between them and the chasing pack on Wednesday night, while the Little 4 frontrunners sent out another statement of intent.
In a busy night of local girls basketball action, both Eureka and Del Norte posted wins in the Big 5, each coming from behind to do so and overcoming some early miscues.
Del Norte’s 64-51 win over Arcata ended a long 18-year gap, with the Warriors beating the Tigers at home for the first time since 2001.
Eureka, meanwhile, remained atop the conference standings with a 53-42 win at McKinleyville, handing the Panthers their first Big 5 loss with a dominating second half.
In non-conference action, the St. Bernard’s girls continued their impressive run against Big 5 teams, beating the Huskies 50-48 in an exciting clash.
For more on Eureka’s big win, see Big second half lifts Eureka girls past Mack …
Fortuna 48, St. Bernard’s 50
(UPDATED – Game played at St. Bernard’s and not Fortuna)
The Crusaders got the better of Big 5 opposition for the fourth time in five matchups this season, with a come-from-behind win over Fortuna at St. Bernard’s.
And they did it in dramatic fashion, overcoming a 10-point deficit with a big fourth quarter.
With the win, their second over the Huskies this season and their seventh straight, the Crusaders improved to 12-4.
“Credit Fortuna for an aggressive defense which really disrupted us, but very proud of my girls for finding a way to get the job done,” St. Bernard’s head coach Mark Gardner said.
Emily Gardner led all scorers with 20 points, while teammate Jasa Sismore finished with 14 points, including two clutch free throws late in the game to give the home team the lead for good.
Between them the two seniors accounted for 13 of the team’s 17 fourth-quarter points.
Fellow senior captain Maddie Costa also continued to have a big impact running the offense at point guard, adding six points.
There was little between the two teams early, with the Huskies leading by just two at halftime.
But the Huskies began to take control of the game in the third quarter, and went into the final period leading by eight.
The Crusaders, however, stepped up their game late, outscoring Fortuna 17-5 in the final period to pull out an impressive win.
Parker Bailey finished with a team-high 11 points for the Huskies, including three 3-pointers, in what was a balanced team effort.
Camrin Dolcini added 10 points, Charlotte Carroll nine, Jordyn Quen six and Moncerrat Bernal five.
The Huskies dropped to 10-8 with the loss, their third straight, and will try to get back on track at Arcata on Friday.
The Crusaders will return to Little 4 action at South Fork, also on Friday.
In JV action, a short-handed Huskies team kept its perfect run going with a 33-32 win over St. Bernard’s.
All seven players scored for Fortuna, which was missing two starters.
With the win, the Huskies improve to 16-0.
Del Norte 64, Arcata 51
The curse was laid to rest on Wednesday night.
Despite a performance that their coach described as far from their best, the Del Norte Warriors kept their unbeaten start to the Big 5 going with a win over Arcata, their first home win over the Tigers since 2001.
“You could almost feel something in the air,” Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton joked afterwards. “The game was getting a little crazy. There was a lot of back and forth and easy layups, which isn’t our game.”
The Tigers, who have struggled early in the Big 5, overcame an early deficit and led the game as late as the third quarter, before the home team took control with a late surge.
“All of a sudden we woke up in the fourth quarter,” Clifton said. “Of course, I’m happy to get the win, but I wasn’t happy necessarily with our play, because I know we’re better than that.”
Kaleya Sanchez, who was honored before the game for surpassing 1,000 career points, led the Warriors with 19 points, while Jadence Clifton scored 14 and Bella Stone 12.
The Warriors, who improved to 13-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big 5, will travel to play McKinleyville on Friday night.
The Tigers (7-10 and 0-3) will return home to play Fortuna on Friday night.