By Ray Hamill — There was little to separate the Loggers and Panthers in a highly-entertaining game of girls basketball at Eureka on Thursday night, with the home team edging out a 61-56 win to remain well in the hunt for a league title.
McKinleyville’s Rayn Tripp drained two free throws to pull McKinleyville within two points of the Loggers with just 50 seconds remaining, but the Eureka girls were able to hold on despite some missed late free throws.
“I was pleased. I thought the girls played really hard,” Eureka head coach Michael Harvey said. “Our free throw shooting wasn’t the best down the stretch, but otherwise I was pleased. I thought a lot of girls played well.”
Harvey opted for a smaller, faster lineup at the start, with juniors Keylei Carroll and Bella Vigil each getting the nod, and they didn’t disappoint.
The in-form Carroll turned in another stellar performance, showcasing more and more that there’s more to her game than just defensive intensity.
“She set the tone for us tonight,” said Harvey.
For the second straight game too.
Vigil also had a big night and continues to give her teammates a boost whenever they seem to need it.
No one, however, outshone senior Sophia Chalmers, who remains a cornerstone of everything the Loggers do and finished with a game-high 23 points.
“She took it to the basket more, which is what we wanted her to do,” Harvey said.
Chalmers scored 16 points in the opening half, as the Loggers rolled out to an 11-point lead in the first quarter only to be reeled back in when the Panthers outscored them 20-9 in the second quarter.
Rian Heenan scored a team-high 18 points to lead another balanced team performance from the Panthers, who have lost a lot of close games to good teams this year and remain winless in league play at 0-3.
“It was an entertaining game, but frustrating for us a little bit too,” Mack head coach Tony McClure said.
In particular his team’s offensive rebounding late in the game, something that proved to be a difference maker.
“They had 19 offensive rebounds and they got a lot of them on free throws, which was frustrating,” McClure said. “We’ve put a lot of time into that.
“It just kills any chance to win the game.”
Tripp finished with 12 points, while Cameron Heenan added eight points and Kylee Townsend seven, including a couple of big baskets in the fourth quarter.
Kayley Armstrong and Hailee Henry each had four points.
After seeing a double-digit lead slip away in the second quarter, when they managed just a single basket, the Loggers looked fired up to start the third, outscoring the visitors 10-3 in the opening few minutes to re-take the advantage.
The Panthers were unable to bridge the gap after that, although they battled until the end, pulling within two points on four occasions down the stretch.
“We didn’t give up. We kept fighting,” McClure said.
Carroll finished with nine points for Eureka, which improved to 3-1 in league play and 16-5 overall, while Kellina Pratton added eight points and Vigil six.
McKenna Beach, Carly Boynton and Malia Guilbert each had five points.
“McKenna Beach made some good decisions for us,” Harvey said of the talented sophomore guard. “And Carly finished the game really strong on the boards. She had a strong game inside rebounding and on defense.”
Next up for the Panthers (5-12 overall) is a trip to Del Norte on Tuesday, while The Loggers will enjoy a week off before hosting Del Norte to tip off the second half of conference play.
In JV action, the Loggers comfortably defeated the Panthers by a score 54-27.