The McKinleyville Panthers won their fifth straight game in H-DNL boys basketball on Tuesday to set up what is essentially a Big 5 championship showdown at arch rivals Arcata on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.
Both teams are unbeaten in the Big 5 this season, and while the Fortuna Huskies may yet have a say in things when they play at Arcata later in the week, Wednesday’s game should be an epic battle in what is one of the best rivalries in North Coast prep sports.
On Tuesday, the Panthers took care of business at home to Del Norte — barely.
Mack won the game 55-48 in overtime.
Connor Alto scored a team-high 13 points in the win, while both T-Ryan Stumpf and Jack George each chipped in 10 points.
Jack Clancy added eight points for the Panthers, who improved to 5-1 and have been perfect since an opening night loss to St. Bernard’s.
Del Norte led by five late in the third quarter but the high-paced Panthers forced three quick turnovers and converted all three to lead by one going into final quarter.
It was a pivotal moment in the game.
Kaleb Price continued to play like a league MVP for Del Norte, finishing with 16 points and 18 rebounds, while teammate Peyton Swan had 11 points.
Judson Pincombe added nine points, Caleb Dodson seven and Edwin Zepeda six.
The loss was just the second of the season for the 5-2 Warriors.
The Panthers are now 3-0 in the Big 5, while Arcata is 2-0 in the Big 5 and 6-0 overall.
Fortuna is 1-1 in the Big 5 with two games remaining against Del Norte and Arcata.