By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies inched closer to a Big 5 championship in girls basketball on Wednesday night, pulling away from the Loggers late for a 50-41 win at Eureka.
Charlotte Carroll had a dominating night for the visitors, scoring a game-high 19 points and causing the Loggers problems in the paint at both ends of the court.
With the win, their second over Eureka in conference play, the Fortuna girls improved to 5-1 in the Big 5 with just two games remaining.
Arcata (3-2) denied them at least a share of the title by edging McKinleyville 54-50 in Wednesday’s other conference game.
A win in either of their final two games, however, will guarantee the Huskies at least a share of the championship in what has been an exciting race in a very competitive Big 5 this season.
Wednesday’s game at Eureka was a physical affair between two teams that played as if they knew what was at stake.
A win for the Loggers would have given them a share of the league lead going into the final week of action, and things appeared to be going their way early in the second half.
Trailing by just one point after a back and forth opening half, the Eureka girls came out the stronger of the two teams early in the third quarter, opening up a 26-21 lead midway through the period.
After that, however, the Huskies took control of the game — and the race for the championship — with a 20-2 run to open up a 13-point advantage midway through the final period.
“In the second half we had a few more shots,” Fortuna head coach Scott Betts said. “We had some 3s in the second half which we didn’t make in the first half.
“And I thought (our players) were patient and they moved the ball well.”
Carroll was instrumental in the turnaround, keeping her team in contention early and growing in stature as the game wore on.
It was, according to her coach, “one of her best games.”
Team defense once again also played a pivotal role for the Huskies, who are now 19-2 and have responded well to last week’s surprise loss at home to Arcata with back-to-back victories.
Juniors Saige Grundman and Kendall Stewart were both particularly effective on the defensive end.
In addition to her defense, Grundman finished with 12 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter as the Huskies held the home team at arm’s length.
Grundman also was a clutch 6-for-6 at the free-throw line in the fourth.
Gracie Betts chipped in nine points.
For Eureka, which dropped to 3-3 in the Big 5 and 16-8 overall, Malia Guilbert scored 13 points and Sophia Chalmers 12.
“We had too many turnovers, and that was one of the key things, and defending Charlotte was the other,” Eureka head coach Michael Harvey said. “And I think they took advantage of our defensive deficiencies.”
Kellina Pratton added six points for Eureka and Carly Boynton five.
The Loggers now face an uphill battle to claim a co-league championship but still have plenty to play for, including a top-three place in league and qualification for the Dick Niclai tournament, where they could meet Fortuna again.
The loss was their third straight at home in the past seven days.
“We just need to press on and have short memories,” Harvey said. “We’ve still got a lot to play for, whether it be the Niclai or Sections.”