Eureka girls hold on late to complete Niclai and league double

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – The Eureka girls celebrate their Niclai championship with their coaches on Friday.

By Ray Hamill — Goal No. 2 for the season is in the books.

On Friday night, the Eureka girls held off a dangerous Arcata team down the stretch on the way to a 68-61 win in the Dick Niclai tournament decider.

The tournament championship comes two weeks after the team secured the Big 5 pennant outright, which was goal No. 1 for the season, and gives the program a first league and Niclai double since 2004.

It also was the team’s second consecutive Niclai championship after previously winning it just once in 25 years.

“It really is a nice accomplishment to turn the corner,” head coach Mike Harvey said. “And we look forward to continued success for Eureka.”

Harvey, who will be stepping down as head coach after the season, will leave the program in good hands, as evidenced by Friday’s performance from a team with numerous talented juniors.

None more so than Kira Morris, who was outstanding once again at both ends of the court.

In addition to scoring a team-high 19 points, Morris was handed the difficult defensive task of guarding Arcata standout Alia Prentiss.

“It was a tough game,” Harvey said. “I thought we defended really well, especially Prentiss. Kira Morris was phenomenal, on both sides of the ball. She was assigned to stay with Prentiss and I thought she handled her well.”

It took both teams a little while to settle into the game, with just 10 points combined in the opening quarter, which saw the Loggers lead 8-2.

But both offenses got going after that.

Kira Morris

Seniors McKenna Beach, Payton Goodman Ellie Pesch and Amaya Watson with the Dick Niclai tournament trophy.

Nora Talty was close to unstoppable for the Tigers for much of the night and finished with a game-high 30 points, while Prentiss chipped in 11 points, Grace Talty eight and Lily Rust-Kelley four.

A Nora Talty basket tied the game at 38-38 late in the third quarter, but a Payton Goodman 3-pointer at the end of the period gave Eureka a five-point advantage going into the fourth.

They quickly stretched the lead to 10 early in the final quarter and were able to hold on down the stretch.

“We played 12 girls deep and they all contributed in different ways,” Harvey said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.

“They stayed focused and disciplined and did what we had to do.”

McKenna Beach

Claire Maples

Senior McKenna Beach also had a big night and scored 16 points in the win.

“She’s been phenomenal all year,” Harvey said. “She made good decisions with the ball.”

Aniah Gaither added 12 points and gave the Loggers a post presence at both ends of the court, while Amaya Gee chipped in seven points, Payton Goodman five and Mariah Napoleon four.

Goodman and Beach are among the five players who were also on the 2019 Niclai championship roster, along with Claire Maples, Amaya Watson and Ellie Pesch.

The Loggers, who improved to 20-8, will now turn their attention to goal No. 3 for the season, which is to put together a lengthy playoff run and quality for the NorCal tournament.

Submitted photo – Seniors McKenna Beach and Payton goodman celebrate.

Arcata’s Grace Talty drives to the basket, with Eureka’s Claire Maples defending.

Arcata head coach Doug Oliveira and his bench look on.

“We’re excited about sections,” Harvey said. “And we’re excited about a home game on Tuesday.”

Friday’s loss was just the second for the Arcata girls in their last 11 games, and they are now 16-9.

Both teams will find out their NCS playoff seed and opponent on Sunday.

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