By Ray Hamill — What a month it’s been for local high school basketball, with three of the four league titles going down to the final week of the season.
Two local players who played a major role for their respective teams this season feature in this week’s Humboldt Sports Athletes and Team of the Week, sponsored by College of the Redwoods Athletics, as well as one history-making H-DNL basketball team and a group of outstanding wrestlers.
One player who has been a constant force for his team all season is Arcata senior Kai Purcell, who will be one of the frontrunners for league MVP after leading the Tigers to an outright championship.
And that gets him the nod for one of our athletes of the week.
Del Norte’s Lili Nunez also played a major role for her team this season, growing stronger as it progressed.
The sophomore standout is coming off a spectacular performance in the Warriors’ season finale loss to McKinleyville.
The South Fork boys, meanwhile, are one of our two teams of the week after ending a 29-year Little 4 boys basketball championship drought for their school, and doing so with a thrilling OT victory on the final night.
The Del Norte wrestlers also are coming off an impressive weekend and are our co-team of the week after placing second at the NCS dual meet championships.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Del Norte Basketball, Sophomore
Nunez and a young Warriors team raised the level of their game down the stretch of the season, almost sneaking into the Dick Niclai tournament.
The sensational sophomore scored a career-high 40 points in a season-ending loss at McKinleyville, as well as grabbing 10 boards.
For more on Nunez, see our girls basketball roundup …
Arcata Basketball, Senior
Purcell is 7-0 in Big 5 games this year.
After missing the Tigers’ opening game at McKinleyville, which they lost, the senior standout returned to the lineup and was instrumental in leading his team to seven straight wins and the league pennant.
On Thursday night, he followed that by scoring a game-high 32 points in the Dick Niclai semifinal against St. Bernard’s.
Purcell and teammate Brandon Bento-Bento Jackson, who was one of our athletes of the week earlier in the year, are the clear frontrunners for the Big 5 MVP.
For more on Purcell and the Tigers, see Arcata Tigers complete remarkable league run, claim B5 title outright …
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
South Fork Boys Basketball
The Cubs are Little 4 champions after a thrilling 69-68 overtime win over St. Bernard’s on the final night of league play.
The victory ended almost three decades without a boys basketball championship in Miranda and was well deserved.
Head coach Taylor Morrow and his players have been playing well all season long and will be expected to continue to roll in the North Coast Section playoffs, which tip off next week.
For more on the Cubs’ historic night, see Cubs beat Crusaders in OT to end three-decade drought …
Del Norte Wrestling
The Warriors continued to represent the H-DNL well in Sections, placing second to Ukiah at the NCS Redwood Empire Division-II Dual Meet Championships on Saturday.
The Warriors beat Windsor in the opening round, and followed that with a thrilling comeback to win their semifinal against Casa Grande, a match in which they trailed 40-18 and needed to win the final four matches, all by pin.
It was a remarkable fight back and another impressive performance for the best high school wrestling team in the H-DNL, which has now placed second at sections for three straight postseasons.
For more on the Warriors’ big week, see Warriors place second at sections, as H-DNL continues to represent well …