By Ray Hamill — If the rest of the Dick Niclai tournament is as exciting as Monday night’s opening round, it’s going to be fun week for local basketball fans.
And if the Arcata Tigers show as much fight and composure as they showed late in their tourney opener, they’re going to be tough to stop.
On Monday, the Tigers battled back from a 10-point third-quarter deficit, before pulling away in overtime to seal a 70-59 win over Eureka.
The win sets up a semifinal showdown at St. Bernard’s on Wednesday night.
“I think the kids are learning how to win and they did a good job executing late and staying calm,” Arcata head coach Dusty Scofield said.
Mason Railsback was instrumental in the third-quarter rally, scoring nine of his 19 points in the period, as the Tigers went on a 9-0 run to close out the quarter and pull back within one.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth affair and about as exciting a period of basketball as you’ll see all season, with the score tied on five occasions over the final three minutes.
A loud packed house appreciated the entertainment and fueled both teams with their energy.
Overtime, however belonged to the Tigers, with freshman guard Brandon Bento-Jackson ice cool down the stretch, scoring eight of his team’s 12 points for the period, including going 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Bento-Jackson had 11 points in the win.
“Defensively we could have been a hair better but I think we executed down the stretch,” said Scofield, whose team improved to 18-8
The ever-reliable Garrett Hall also had a big say in the win, scoring 19 points, while Aidan Atkins-Salazar was pivotal in a strong team defensive performance.
“Aidan played really well off the bench defensively,” Scofield said. “I thought overall it was just a great team win.”
Atkins-Salazar finished with seven points, while Niko Zambas chipped in six, as did Jack Taylor, who was perfect on all six of his attempts from the charity stripe.
Marcus Bensen also continued to give the Tigers a spark off the bench, adding five points.
For Eureka, Trevor Bell had an outstanding night, scoring a game-high 22 points, including three 3-pointers.
The senior guard was unstoppable in the third quarter, keying his team’s 15-2 run to start the second half, as the Loggers began to take control of the game.
Offensively, however, the Eureka boys went cold in overtime, managing just one point for the period.
Cahliel Garner continued to impress with 16 points, while Jaeden Thayer added nine and CJ Chaidez six.
The Loggers dropped to 16-10.
The Tigers will play the Crusaders at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, with a place in Friday’s tournament championship game up for grabs.