Eureka and Arcata girls advance to Niclai championship

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Action from Wednesday’s Dick Niclai semifinal at Ferndale High.

The Eureka Loggers and Arcata Tigers will face off in Friday’s Dick Niclai girls tournament championship game after they both navigated a tough semifinal matchup on Wednesday night.

The Loggers, who are the defending Niclai champions, pulled away late to beat St. Bernard’s 58-49 at Jay Willard Gymnasium after the Crusaders had matched them stride for stride for much of the night.

At Ferndale, meanwhile, the Tigers overcame a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes to sneak a 52-50 win over the Wildcats, who suffered their first loss against an H-DNL opponent this season.

A pair of sophomores — Nora Talty and Alia Prentiss — stepped up big-time for the Tigers, who have won nine of their last 10 games, with their only loss in that span coming at Eureka.

Talty, who has been on fire all season, finished with a game-high 25 points and scored both the tying and winning baskets in the final minutes after the Wildcats had hit a pair of big 3s to put them up 49-42.

“We talked about staying poised (during a late timeout),” Arcata head coach Doug Oliveira said. “And they really did.”

Prentiss finished with 18 points in the win, including going 9-for-10 at the free-throw line, in what was a back-and-forth game with little to separate the two teams for most of the night.

“Alia put us on her back for a lot of the game,” the head coach said. “She’s a great penetrator to get our offense going.”

Grace Talty added six points and was a force inside once again, particularly on defense, while Olivia Railsback chipped in three points.

According to the head coach, the Tigers’ defense has played a pivotal role in the team’s recent success.

“We’ve played really well defensively,” he said, before adding with a chuckle, “we keep ourselves in the game with our defense, while giving the ball to the other team … But we’ve played defense well enough to keep us in games until we finally connect and get going (offensively).”

Ferndale’s Haidyn Fulton defends Arcata’s Alia Prentiss on Wednesday.

The stretch of nine wins in 10 games has lifted the Tigers from 7-7 to 16-8.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, will now turn their attention towards the North Coast Section playoffs where they will be expected to compete for a Division-6 section championship.

“We had our chances to either win or tie, but the clock ran out,” Ferndale head coach Terra Albee said. “I knew it would be a great matchup and it was a very exciting game. Arcata just got the better of us tonight and earned a well-deserved win.”

Haidyn Fulton, another sophomore, paced the Cats with 21 points and 13 rebounds, while Reaghan Langer added 11 points and seven rebounds, and Emily Chavez finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

“Ferndale is a good team and they played a great game,” Oliveira said.

The Ferndale girls are now 15-3 on the season and are likely to receive a No. 1 seed for the Division-6 section playoffs when the seeds and brackets are announced on Sunday.

The Wildcats are also the No. 1 ranked D-6 girls team in California.

“Such a close, challenging game like tonight will only prepare us down the road for the playoffs,” Albee said. “We are disappointed with our loss tonight, but we will refocus and be ready to play hard on Wednesday.”

Kyla Albee chipped in six points in Tuesday’s loss, despite being in foul trouble and missing much of the second and third quarters, while Carly Carmesin added seven rebounds and two points.

Nora Talty

Eureka 58, St. Bernard’s 49

The Loggers will get the chance to defend their Niclai championship on their home court on Friday night, after taking care of business in the second half against the Crusaders.

Kira Morris scored a team-high 15 points in a matchup that was a lot closer than an earlier game between these crosstown rivals, while teammate Mariah Napoleon added 10 points.

“We played well, they played a little bit better,” St. Bernard’s head coach Augie Valdez said. 

After winning the Big 5 outright for the first time in almost two decades, the Eureka girls will try to complete the league and Niclai double when they play an Arcata team they have already beaten twice in two games this season.

Payton Goodman added nine points in Wednesday’s win, while Aniah Gaither finished with eight points.

The dominating Lele Tanuvasa was unstoppable once again for St. Bernard’s and scored a game-high 29 points as she continues her blistering pace this season.

Madelyn Shanahan added seven points.

The St. Bernard’s girls, who are 12-7 on the season, will now turn their attention to the NCS playoffs and they are expected to get a good seed after jumping to No. 4 in the Division-4 rankings this week.

“I think we did a lot of growing up tonight,” Valdez said. “We’re a young team and young teams make mistakes, and we’ll learn from it.”

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