Panthers, Crusaders both win their Niclai openers

File photo – The McKinleyville Panthers will play at South Fork on Thursday.

The McKinleyville Panthers have set up a Dick Niclai tournament semifinal showdown at South Fork after posting their second win over Del Norte in four days in boys basketball on Tuesday night.

After edging the Warriors in their league finale on Friday, the Panthers traveled to Crescent City for the tournament opener and came away with a 52-47 victory.

“Both games were just a battle all the way through,” McKinleyville head coach Cindy Semore Clancy said.

On Tuesday, the visitors trailed for much of the first half but began to take control of the game late and broke a 37-37 tie with the first five points of the fourth quarter to open up a lead they would not relinquish in a matchup of two of the best defensive teams in the league.

Cody Whitmer had a big night in the win, scoring a team-high 15 points, while Owen Hamm added 12 points, Jack Clancy 10 and Jordan Brown five.

Clancy hit a big 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter as the Panthers began to grab the momentum.

“I thought once again we played great defense,” Semore Clancy said. “Cody and Jack hit some outside shots tonight and that really helped us out.

“And that opened up the lane a little bit, and our post players were getting after the boards and played solid defense inside.”

Ethan Thomas had a career night in the loss.

In addition to his trademark strong defense, the Del Norte junior scored a game-high 16 points and did his best to keep his team in contention late.

Teammate Edwin Zepeda added 10 points, while Nani Scott finished with eight and Adriel Horton seven.

The loss was the third straight for the Warriors, who dropped to 15-7 on the season.

Del Norte will find out its North Coast Section playoff opponent on Sunday.

The Panthers, who improved to 14-7, will play their Niclai semifinal at South Fork on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

“I know it’s going to be a battle,” Semore Clancy said.

The two teams have not played each other this year.

St. Bernard’s 91, Hoopa 43

The Crusaders are moving on in the Dick Niclai tournament and will play a semifinal at Arcata on Thursday after a comprehensive win at home to Hoopa on Tuesday night.

Just four days after a disappointing loss to South Fork in their little 4 finale, the St. Bernard’s boys responded with their second best offensive performance of the season.

Drew Vizenor led a balanced effort with a game-high 20 points, as the Crusaders quickly took control to lead by 19 after the opening quarter and then stretched the advantage to 29 by halftime.

Peyton Smith also had a productive night offensively and scored 17 points, while Aaiden Burris added 16 points.

Owen Shanahan and Aidan Dorsch each chipped in nine points and Seth Dyer finished with seven.

“We made shots,” head coach Issac Gildea said. “We had a lot of good energy and a lot of fire. We were kind of devastated on Saturday and Sunday, but we had a good practice on Monday.”

Ben Hunsucker led the Warriors with 11 points, all of them in the first half, while Talon Borden finished with eight points and Lane Campbell had seven.

The Warriors will find out their North Coast Section playoff fate on Sunday, but Gildea believes they belong in the postseason.,

“Hoopa is better than quite a few of the Division-5 teams we’ve played this year,” he said. “I hope they get in. They’re deserving of it.”

Thursday’s game at Arcata is set for 7 p.m.


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