By Ray Hamill — The Loggers will find out on Friday whether third time is truly the charm.
On Wednesday night, the Eureka girls comfortably took care of crosstown rivals St. Bernard’s by a score of 58-35 to advance to the Dick Niclai championship game at Lumberjack Arena.
And they’ll meet a familiar foe there, matching up against Big 5 champions Del Norte, which knocked off the Loggers twice on the way to a first-ever conference championship this season.
“Winning three straight games (against one team) is tough,” Eureka head coach Michael Harvey said. “We know we can hang with them. We know we can beat them. It’s just a matter of execution and effort.”
The Loggers got both on Wednesday, rolling out to an easy win over the Little 4 champions, their second at St. Bernard’s in less than two weeks.
Never in danger
In front of a loud and enthusiastic crowd, the visitors took control of the game late in the first quarter and never looked back, gradually pulling further away while never appearing in danger of losing.
Eureka led by 18 at halftime and outscored a quality Crusaders team in all four quarters.
Most telling, the Loggers held St. Bernard’s to just seven baskets all night, with 21 of the Crusaders’ points coming from the free-throw line.
“Credit to Eureka for playing a really good game,” St. Bernard’s head coach Mark Gardner said. “I think they’re going to be a dangerous team on Friday night and also in Division-III sections. I wish coach Harvey and his team all the best.”
The Loggers got big performances from their team leaders.
Between them, Makaila Napoleon, Dorshaela Wesson and Sophia Chalmers combined for 49 of their team’s 58 points.
Napoleon finished with 18, Wesson 16 and Chalmers 15.
The win secures a Dick Niclai championship appearance for a program that was upset in the opening round a year ago, as well as giving the players another shot at Del Norte.
“That’s important for them,” Harvey said. “There’s some unfinished business.”
With the win, the Loggers improved to 19-8, while the Crusaders dropped to 19-6.
Jasa Sisemore led the Crusaders with 12 points, while Emily Gardner finished with eight, all from the free-throw line.
“Every girl on our team tonight played with heart and a full effort and the entire time, and that’s really all you can ask for as a coach,” Mark Gardner said.
One of the section favorites
The Crusaders, who are ranked No. 1 among NCS Division-V teams, according to MaxPreps, will go into next week’s section playoffs as one of the favorites in their bracket.
“I am very proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished at this point,” the head coach said. “Looking forward to our opportunity to compete in sections.”
Despite Wednesday’s loss, the St. Bernard’s girls will carry plenty of momentum into the NCS playoffs having won 14 of their last 16 games, with their only two losses in that spell coming against the Division-III Eureka program.
“We’ll get back to the drawing board tomorrow and get ourselves ready for the rest of the postseason,” Mark Gardner said.
Friday’s championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be played as part of a doubleheader, with the boys championship following at 7:30 p.m.
Both games will be broadcast live on 95.1 and 106.7 FM.