By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s and Eureka girls served up a highly-entertaining game of basketball on Saturday night, played in a playoff-type atmosphere at Eureka High.
And it was the visiting Crusaders who got the better of their crosstown rivals, stepping up their game after the interval on the way to a 53-50 win.
“That’s the most energy, the most effort I’ve seen from them in a half all season,” St. Bernard’s head coach Mark Gardner said of his players.
The win was the Crusaders’ first over the Loggers since January 2015, a run of nine straight losses, including an overtime defeat earlier this season.
And that was particularly gratifying for a core group of SB seniors — Mackenzie Finck, Marayah Tomlinson, Shelby Jordan and Josie Peterson — who got the better of their rivals for the first time in their high school careers.
“For those four, I know that tonight really meant a lot,” Gardner said.
Judging by their reaction, this game clearly meant a lot to both teams, as well as the fans, who were as loud as they’ve been all season at Jay Willard Gymnasium and set the stage for a playoff-type atmosphere.
“Eureka’s crowd was great. Our crowd was great,” Gardner said. “It was rocking and rolling in there.”
The loss was the second straight for the Loggers, who were guilty of some indiscipline late on and were held to single digits in scoring in two of the four quarters.
But there was plenty to like about the performance as well in what was a hard-fought clash by both teams.
“That was an entertaining game, and it was a fun game to coach,” head coach Michael Harvey said. “I think we came out with really good energy and focus in the first half. We were disciplined and we moved the ball well.
“I think we became less patient as the game went on, and we had a lack of focus at the end, which was disappointing.”
The Loggers’ D caused the visitors problems early on, particularly late in the first half when they were able to pull away to lead 31-23 at halftime.
St. Bernard’s, however, came out a different team in the third quarter.
“I think they woke each other up,” Gardner said of his players. “We have six seniors and they’ve been playing Eureka for a long time, and they’ve been losing to Eureka for a long time, and they wanted to win this game.”
Freshman sensation Saulele Tanuvasa was again instrumental for the Crusaders, and has quickly established herself as one of the top high school players on the North Coast.
Tanuvasa scored a game-high 21 points and displayed a composure beyond her years late in the game with four fouls for much of the fourth quarter.
“She brings an offensive aspect to our game that we haven’t had in Humboldt County in a long time,” Gardner said. “She can score in so many ways.”
Jordan also had a huge game and provided a physical presence at both ends of the court, finishing with eight points.
She was inspirational in the third-quarter surge.
Fa’apisa Fonoti too had a big impact, scoring 12, while Peterson chipped in six.
Eureka was outscored 15-5 in the third period and consistently trailed by three to six points the remainder of the way.
Sophia Chalmers and Carly Boynton each had a big game for the Loggers, scoring 14 points apiece, with the latter making her presence felt before fouling out late.
“She stepped up,” Harvey said of Boynton.
Malia Guilbert added eight points with some big baskets late in the game to keep her team within touch.
“There was a lack of discipline from some of our leaders, but we played hard,” Harvey said. “We played a lot better than we did against Del Norte (on Thursday).”
The win was the fourth straight for the 16-5 Crusaders, who have also won seven of their last eight.
The Loggers, who have a huge showdown at home to Fortuna on Wednesday night, are now 16-7.