By Ray Hamill — Two outright champions were crowned in boys basketball over the past few days, and either would be considered a worthy choice for this week’s Humboldt Sports Team of the Week.
You get the feeling greater things await both.
For now, though, Hoopa Valley gets the nod for this week’s honor, after ending a five-year wait for a league crown.
At McKinleyville, senior AJ Stubbs is coming off a huge week, and has been one of the Big 5’s most consistent performers all season, earning him one of our Athlete of the Week honors.
Likewise at St. Bernard’s, where Emily Gardner is one of a trio of dominating seniors, and the foundation on which the team’s success this season has been achieved.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
McKinleyville Basketball, Senior
Along with teammate Isaac Puzz, Stubbs has been one of the most consistent performers for the Panthers all season, even when the team struggled through six straight losses.
The Panthers, however, are now back in the race for a spot in both the Dick Niclai Memorial Tournament and the North Coast Section playoffs, with Stubbs leading the late-season surge with an ever-growing versatile presence.
On Friday, Stubbs scored 40 points in a win over Eureka, the Panthers’ fourth straight victory, and was a nightmare matchup for the Loggers.
For more on Stubbs’ big performance, see Panthers win again, all but end Loggers’ Niclai hopes …
St. Bernard’s Basketball, Senior
Gardner, who surpassed the 1,000 career points mark earlier in the season, has been a consistent threat at both ends of the court for the Crusaders all year, playing a big part in the team’s race for a remarkable sixth straight league title.
Gardner is one of the most fundamentally sound post players on the North Coast and provides the perfect balance for fellow seniors Jasa Sisemore and Maddie Costa.
The Crusaders saw a 12-game winning streak end at home to Eureka on Saturday, but quickly returned to winning ways on Monday night with a win over McKinleyville, their fifth victory over Big 5 opposition in seven matchups this season, with Gardner, as always, playing a big role.
The Crusaders went 3-1 over the past eight days.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Hoopa Valley Boys Basketball
A proud Warriors program won its first league title since 2014 with room to spare on Monday, clinching the Little 4 championship outright with a win at South Fork and a game in hand.
This is the best Warriors team in some time, and one that is poised for a good run in both the Dick Niclai tournament and NCS playoffs.
Heading into February, the Hoopa boys, under the direction of head coach Tyler Mitchell, are as dangerous as they’ve been at any stage this season, and feature a lineup that now has depth to complement their go-to star, George Navarro, who himself continues to evolve into a more complete player.
For more on the Hoopa boys’ big week, see Hoopa boys crowned Little 4 champions …