By Ray Hamill — The Tigers will get the rematch they coveted.
After barely losing to Del Norte in last week’s Big 5 decider, the Arcata boys will get another shot at their conference rivals in Friday’s Dick Niclai championship game after winning 53-37 at St. Bernard’s on Wednesday.
“We’re really looking forward to playing Del Norte again,” Arcata head coach Dusty Scofield said. “Obviously they’re an extremely tough team, but I think if we execute and play solid defense we have a chance. We’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
Friday’s showdown will be third between the top two teams on the North Coast this season, with the Warriors winning both previous games, including a thrilling two-point victory last week.
The championship showdown will take place at Humboldt State’s Lumberjack Arena at 7:30 p.m. and will be played as part of a doubleheader along with the girls’ decider.
The Tigers never really looked in danger of losing Wednesday’s game against a St. Bernard’s team that didn’t play its best offense and was held to its second lowest points total of the season.
The Arcata defense played a part in that, as the visiting Tigers opened up a 14-6 lead in the opening quarter and held a 15-point advantage at halftime.
They continued to pull away in third, stretching their lead to as many as 21 at one stage, before the Crusaders made a fight of it in the fourth quarter, pulling back to within 10 late in the game.
“I thought defensively we played pretty solid at times. It’s been kind of our calling card,” Scofield said. “And offensively we did a nice job pushing the ball and sharing it.”
Garrett Hall once again played a pivotal role for the Tigers, as he continues to lead the way late in his senior campaign.
“As a senior he’s been playing really tough and focused,” Scofield said.
Likewise with fellow senior Jack Taylor and freshman sensation Brandon Bento-Jackson, who have each played a big role in helping develop the Arcata team chemistry.
“They play basketball the right way,” the head coach said of the duo “They’re not concerned about scoring.”
Taylor and Niko Zambas each scored a team-high 12 points in Wednesday’s win, including 10 by the latter in the opening quarter as the visitors set the tone.
Zambas had two of his team’s eight 3-pointers.
Mason Railsback, who has also lifted his game down the stretch of the season, added nine points, including a pair of second-quarter 3s.
Hall and Aidan Atkins-Salazar each added five points, as the Tigers improved to 19-8.
Senior Lane Thrap was unstoppable for the Crusaders, remarkably finishing with 27 of his team’s 37 points.
Thrap is one of this week’s Humboldt Sports athletes of the week, and he showed why against the Tigers.
“The boys battled the entire game and never laid down and showed the heart that they’ve always had throughout the season,” St. Bernard’s head coach Steve Thrap said.
The Crusaders, who dropped to 14-8, will host an opening round NCS playoff game next week.
They are expected to make a deep run in the Division-VI field and will find out their opponent on Sunday.