By Ray Hamill — It won’t go down as their finest performance of the season, but the Eureka girls are moving on in the North Coast Section Division-III playoffs.
The Loggers comfortably took care of business in their opening round matchup at home to Hercules on Tuesday night, overcoming a slow start on the way to a 58-44 win.
Trailing by two with three minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Eureka girls quickly took control of the clash, going on an 11-0 run to close out the half, and never looking back after that.
With senior Makaila Napoleon in commanding form, the Loggers carried the momentum into the second half, outscoring the Titans 23-10 in the third quarter to stretch the advantage to 22 points heading into the fourth.
And they did it seemingly without ever really getting out of third gear.
“We won. We’re moving on,” Eureka head coach Michael Harvey said. “We didn’t play our best. I don’t think the effort was up to our normal level, but we won.”
If the team effort was below par, individually the Loggers had several players step up at various stages to help secure the win.
No one more so than Napoleon, who took over the contest early in the second half.
The dominating senior scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the third quarter.
Others too stepped up.
Tiana Rodgers began the second-quarter surge with back-to-back baskets, the first off a half-court pass from Napoleon, and then immediately forced a turnover that led to a pair of Keylei Carroll free-throw attempts.
And suddenly the Loggers went from two points down to being up by five.
They never looked back.
While the team shooting was off at times, the Loggers’ pressure defense caused the visitors continuous problems, forcing numerous turnovers.
“I liked the intensity in the last three minutes of the first half and the third quarter,” Harvey said.
Carly Boynton also stepped up, causing a small visiting lineup some problems in the paint and coming up with a couple of key baskets late in the first half.
The tenacious Carroll was inspirational off the bench in the third quarter, while Sophia Chalmers, who has grown into one of the team’s most important players this season, stepped up late in the third with a couple of big baskets as the home team opened up a decisive advantage.
“We had a lot of different players step up, but it was disjointed out there as well,” Harvey said.
Dorshaela Wesson finished with 10 points in the win, as the Loggers improved to 20-9, while Chalmers had eight points and Boynton and Rodgers six each.
With a big lead, Harvey used the opportunity to give some of his younger JV players some valuable varsity playoff experience.
“We got some of the JV girls in, which was nice, to get their feet wet,” the Eureka head coach said.
Isabella Lopez led the visitors offensively with 13 points, while Munachi Udenyi finished with 10 points.
The Titans closed out their season 15-13.
The No. 4 seed Loggers will play a second home playoff game on Friday, when they host No. 5 Sir Francis Drake, which defeated Piner 45-37 in Tuesday’s opener.
“It’s another home game, and we’re excited about that,” Harvey said.
Game time will be 7 p.m.