What a difference Kai Purcell makes for the Tigers.
On Tuesday night, with their MVP candidate in the lineup, the Arcata Tigers comfortably took care of business at home to McKinleyville in boys basketball, winning 80-59.
The victory came against a Panthers team that knocked off the Tigers earlier in league play when the senior standout was missing from the lineup.
Purcell, who has been described by multiple coaches as the best player in the Big 5 this season, scored a game-high 17 points in the win, as the Tigers moved back into a tie for first place in the conference standings with the Del Norte Warriors, who had a bye in league play on Wednesday.
“We’re about as close to full strength as we can be,” said Arcata head coach Kellen Maynard, whose team has battled COVID protocols and injuries all month, as has the rest of the H-DNL. “But the biggest difference for us was we changed the way that we were guarding their offensive sets from the last time, and the guys had two great days of practice going over it.
“They were the ones who just took over and decided they wanted to make plays.”
After starting their past few games slowly, the Tigers were clearly pumped up for this one and took a quick 10-1 lead less than four minutes in.
After that there was no way back for the visitors, who trailed by 21 at halftime.
“I really pushed the guys and told them they had to come out with more energy,” Maynard said. “Every guy that came on the floor executed the defensive game plan perfectly.”
The ever-dangerous Brandon Bento-Jackson also had a big game at both ends of the court in the win and finished with 15 points, as did teammate Carson Tucker, who helped set the tone from the tip off with a couple of big early baskets.
Shane Purcell added 12 points as the Tigers improved to 4-1 in league play and 18-3 overall.
Owen Hamm and Jack Clancy each scored 13 points for Mack, which remains well in the hunt for the Big 5 championship despite the loss.
The Panthers dropped to 4-2 in the Big 5 (12-6 overall), just half a game out of the lead with two games remaining, including a key matchup against Del Norte.
Jordan Brown chipped in eight points.