By Ray Hamill — It certainly wasn’t the cleanest of games by either team, but it was as entertaining a matchup as you’ll see on the North Coast all season.
And in the end, The Eureka Loggers somehow managed to pull out a much-needed 75-71 win over the Tigers at Arcata.
“It was a great comeback by the girls,” said Eureka head coach Michael Harvey, whose team trailed by 11 late in the third quarter, after leading by 10 earlier in the night. “They kept their focus and came back.”
The win ends a three-game losing streak for the Loggers and puts them in the driver’s seat for a place in the Dick Niclai tournament.
Eureka improved to 4-3 in the Big 5 with one game remaining, with Arcata now 3-3 and Del Norte in fourth with a record of 2-4.
Friday’s win was the Loggers’ second over the Tigers in the Big 5, and they had to overcome a poor night shooting to achieve it.
“I felt like we started a little bumpy,” senior guard Kellina Pratton said afterwards. “But in the end we started slowing things down and started working hard as a team.”
Neither team shot well in the opening quarter, with trips to the free-throw line dominating the opening quarter and just four baskets combined for the period.
The Loggers led early 13-3, but the home team began to find some rhythm offensively in the second quarter while the visitors began to struggle with their shots.
Jocelyn Bliven had an outstanding night for the Tigers, who are now 11-10 overall, finishing with a team-high 18 points.
Bliven played particularly inspired in the third quarter as the Arcata girls began to take control of the game, outscoring the Loggers 24-13 for the period to take their first lead since the opening minutes.
Olivia Railsback also began to grow into the game, draining a couple of huge 3-pointers in the third and finishing with 10 points on the night, while teammate Bella Volz-Broughton overcame some early foul trouble to finish with 13 points.
For the Loggers, Sophia Chalmers and Bella Vigil both were outstanding and played key roles in the win.
Chalmers finished with a game-high 24 points and caused consistent problems for the Tigers at both ends of the court.
The senior guard was particularly effective in overtime in helping her team pull out what was essentially a must-win game.
Vigil was huge off the bench, giving her team a big spark early on, as she has done so many times this season, and also stepping up in overtime.
Few players on the North Coast play with as much passion and intensity.
“Bella, in my opinion, was player of the game,” Harvey said of the junior, who finished with 16 points and had several key rebounds.
Others too stepped up for Eureka, including sophomore McKenna Beach who had eight points and was involved throughout, while senior Carly Boynton continued her impressive final campaign with 11 points.
Malia Guilbert also had an impact, especially late in the game as the Loggers surged, finishing with 10 points, six in the fourth quarter.
Off the bench, junior Aquene Tollefson picked up some of the slack early on with a big contribution when some of the Eureka players were in foul trouble.
“I was really proud of Aquene,” Harvey said. “She came in in the first half and played great defense and played with a lot of energy.”
She also nailed all six of her free-throw attempts.
For Arcata, which is now 3-3 in the Big 5 and 11-10 overall, Sophia Salinas also had a big night with 11 points while Zoie Andre chipped in eight and Tatum Carlin five.
The Loggers, who had dropped three straight home games coming into this game, including two in the Big 5, knew they had to step up to save their season from going under.
“We knew that, and we wanted to get to the Niclai,” Pratton said. “I think we were more aggressive offensively, and in the last quarter we played better as a team.”