The St. Bernard’s girls have been one of the stories of the season and that continued to be the case on Saturday afternoon.
The Crusaders hosted Del Norte in an instant classic that went down to the final buzzer, with their defense holding on late for a 42-41 victory in a non-league showdown.
The win was the second for The Crusaders over Del Norte this season and lifts them to 6-1 against Big 5 opponents.
In the last eight days alone, the Little 4 school has knocked off McKinleyville, Fortuna and Del Norte.
The Warriors, however, gave the Crusaders all they could handle and almost pulled out what would have been an impressive road win.
“That was a very tough and physical basketball game,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “I am so proud of my team for battling and finding a way to win.”
There was little to separate these two teams for much of the afternoon, with never more than a few points between them.
The Crusaders carried a two-point advantage into the second half, but the visitors led by four late in the game, before the home team went on a 10-0 run to open up a six-point advantage with two minutes remaining.
The Warriors, who also have been one of the stories of this season, rallied late with five unanswered points and pulled to within one on a Lili Nunez 3-pointer in the final minute.
After a defensive stop, they got the ball back and had a chance to win at the buzzer but were denied thanks to some stellar defense by the tenacious Amaiyah Her, who was outstanding against the ever-dangerous Nunez all afternoon.
“Amaiyah Her had another tremendous defensive game and she played outstanding defense to stop Del Norte’s attempt at a game-winning shot,” Tomlin said.
Del Norte came into the game as the No. 2 ranked Division-4 team in the North Coast Section, trailing only undefeated Piedmont, with St. Bernard’s No. 3 and McKinleyville fourth.
All three of those local teams also feature prominently in the state rankings, at Nos. 4, 5 and 8, respectively, although the Crusaders will likely leapfrog the Warriors after Saturday and should now be considered a legitimate No. 2 in the NCS.
St. Bernard’s junior Madelyn Shanahan had another big performance on Saturday and led all scorers with 17 points, while teammate Laila Florvilus also continued to impress and finished with 10 points.
“Madelyn Shanahan was brilliant,” Tomlin said. “She had 17 points and powered through a Del Norte defense that was double teaming her and playing extremely physical against her.”
Teammate Alyssa Boham capped a big week with five points, while Her and Aliyah Vigil each chipped in four points and Rihana Fontenot two.
Brooklyn Carter led the way for Del Norte and finished with 16 points, while Nunez continues to play at an MVP level and added 10 points.
Teammate Gianna Taylor had eight points, Jacalyn Gorbet three and Kimora McCovey and Lauren Stutes two apiece.
The win lifts the SB girls to 17-2 on the season, with their only losses coming early in the campaign against McKinleyville and in overtime against Berean Christian just before Christmas.
They are a perfect 7-0 in 2023, including 20-point victories over both Arcata and Fortuna.
The Del Norte girls dropped to 14-6 and have now lost three of their last four games, including losses to Eureka and McKinleyville, although they remain one of the top teams in the area.
Next up, on Tuesday, St. Bernard’s plays at Trinity and Del Norte returns to the Big 5 at Eureka