By Ray Hamill — A pair of standout basketball players are this week’s athletes of the week, as each continues to play a pivotal role on their respective league-leading teams.
Our Athletes and Team of the Week awards are sponsored by College of the Redwoods Athletics.
Arcata High senior Brandon Bento-Jackson has been the best basketball player here on the North Coast for the past couple of years and that has been the case once again this winter.
Bento-Jackson and the Tigers tipped off the second half of league play with a comfortable 68-52 win over Fortuna on Friday night.
With three games remaining, the Tigers will be difficult to stop, especially with Jackson’s dominating presence on both sides of the ball.
At Eureka High, junior Kaitlin Giacone has been equally effective for the Loggers, who also are undefeated in league play and well on course to defend their league pennant as well.
Giacone led her team in scoring in three straight games this past week, including a big 19-point performance at Del Norte last Saturday.
With Giacone playing a key role on a deep and very talented roster, the Eureka girls have been even more impressive than the Arcata boys and have won all nine of their games against H-DNL teams.
Our team of the week, meanwhile, goes to one of the hottest teams on the North Coast right now and one that is expected to make a deep playoff run in the coming weeks.
The St. Bernard’s girls beat another Big 5 opponent on Saturday afternoon, getting the better of Del Norte, a victory that followed wins over McKinleyville and Arcata over the past two weekends.
The Crusaders are not only the frontrunners for a Little 4 championship, but they are now a very impressive 6-1 against Big 5 teams.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Eureka Basketball, Junior
One of the very best all-around athletes here on the North Coast right now, Giacone is enjoying an outstanding winter on the basketball court.
She’s also enjoying incredible success as a high school athlete and has played a key role on several championship or championship contending teams at Eureka High in soccer, basketball and softball.
After scoring 19 points at Del Norte last weekend, Giacone had 14 points against Hoopa on Monday and 15 in a key win over McKinleyville on Tuesday.
For more on Giacone and the Loggers, see our Girls Basketball Roundup …
Arcata basketball, Senior
The senior standout is closing out his high school career with a bang and has a young Tigers team on the verge of a second straight league title.
Bento-Jackson has been a consistent leader on the court all season for a team that features just one other senior, Josiah Gomez.
The Arcata boys have a huge matchup at McKinleyville on Thursday night, where a victory will give them at least a share of the Big 5 crown.
For more on Bento-Jackson and the Tigers, see Friday night’s Big 5 Boys Roundup …
TEAM OF THE WEEK
St. Bernard’s Girls Basketball
The Crusaders have won all seven of their games in 2023 and are now 9-1 against H-DNL teams this season, with their only loss coming against McKinleyville back in mid December when they were missing one of their best two players.
In the past two weeks, they have beaten Arcata and Fortuna by 20 points each, as well as topping McKinleyville by nine.
On Saturday, they knocked off Del Norte for the second time this season and showed they can win close games with a clutch performance down the stretch.
Under the guidance of head coach Matt Tomlin, the SB girls are now 17-2 overall and they’re winning with a relatively young team.
Madelyn Shanahan and Laila Florvilus have been outstanding all season, while several others, including the Aliyah Vigil, Amaiyah Her, Mataya Sherman and Alyssa Boham, among others, all are getting stronger as the season goes on.