GIRLS BASKETBALL ROUNDUP — Wild night shakes things up in the Big 5

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Lili Nunez in action for the Warriors at Eureka on Wednesday night.

As the old adage goes, there’s a reason they play the games.

Wednesday night was a wild one in H-DNL girls basketball with a couple of upsets that keep the race for the Big 5 championship and the Dick Niclai tournament berths wide open going into the final eight days of league play.

At Eureka High, the Del Norte Warriors handed the Loggers their first league loss to keep their own Big 5 championship hopes alive, while at McKinleyville, the Fortuna Huskies knocked off the Panthers for their first league win, a result that gives the Arcata Tigers a boost in their bid for a postseason berth.

After dropping three of their previous four games in what has been a very tough stretch in their schedule, the Del Norte Warriors found a way to beat the Eureka press on the way to a 70-62 win.

The win lifts the Del Norte girls to 4-2 in the Big 5 (15-6 overall) and pulls them within a half a game of the league-leading Loggers, who dropped to 4-1 and 18-5. 

The Fortuna girls, meanwhile, beat the Panthers 49-45, as McKinleyville dropped to 3-3 in league (14-7 overall) and into third place in the Big 5, just half a game ahead of the Tigers, whom they play at Arcata on Friday night in a game that has suddenly taken on added significance in the race for the final Dick Niclai tournament berth.

Also on Wednesday, in non-league action, the Tigers defeated Ferndale 54-50 at Arcata, while South Fork beat Hayfork 37-21 in Miranda.

At Eureka High, Lili Nunez exploded for 36 points to lead the Warriors to the upset win, as she continues to play at an MVP level.

“I’ve said it from the get-go, in my opinion she’s the best player in this league,” Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton said of the junior point guard. “I truly believe that. The numbers don’t lie, and she played great defense.”

The big difference between this game and the pervious meeting between these two league frontrunners, which the Loggers won, was the Warriors’ ability to beat the home team’s suffocating press.

But that alone would not have been enough were it not for the sharpshooting of the ever-improving Brooklyn Carter, who scored 26 points in the win, including seven 3-pointers.

“She did all of that off the press,” Clifton said of Carter, whose teammates are now referring to her as the “sophomore sensation.”

“These girls are hot,” the head coach added. “Brooklyn Carter was absolutely on fire and our post players got some huge rebounds. We’re all getting on the same page.”

Senior Gianna Taylor also had a huge game on both sides of the ball and had zero turnovers while seeing a lot of time at point guard.

Having played a game more than the Loggers, the Warriors will still need some help if they are to win the league.

Eureka still has games remaining against Fortuna (home), McKinleyville (away) and Arcata (away), while Del Norte plays Fortuna (away) and Arcata (home).

At the very least, the Del Norte girls are closing in on a second-place finish, which would give them a home game for the opening round of the Niclai tournament in two weeks.

“It doesn’t matter how hot you are at the beginning, it matters how hot you are at the end,” the head coach said.

Despite the loss, the Loggers still hold their league destiny in their own hands and if they can win out they will retain the league title they won a year ago.

The consistent Kaitlin Giacone scored a team-high 16 points for Eureka, while Aniah Gaither finished with 14 points and Claire Maples had 11.

Isis Poteet and Moriah Bowles each chipped in eight points.

Fortuna 49, McKinleyville 45

The Huskies are closing out league play far more competitively than they began it.

After dropping their first four Big 5 games by an average of almost 25 points, the Fortuna girls have fared far better in their past two league games and finally got a deserved breakthrough on Wednesday.

“I’m so proud of the team,” head coach Tom Chapman said. “They played a solid game from start to finish. We did a great job defensively and limiting second-chance points.”

Junior guard Malessa Miles scored a game-high 16 points in the win, which ended a seven-game losing streak for Fortuna.

Ashley Tully added 12 points and Kylee Fennell finished with nine, as eight different Fortuna players scored in a balanced offensive performance.

After being outscored 15-10 in the third quarter, the Huskies trailed by two, but rallied to pull out the win, outscoring the home team 17-11 in the fourth.

The Panthers also had a balanced offensive performance, with eight different players scoring.

Trinity Preston finished with a team-high 12 points, while Tatum Fisher had 11 points, Kim Lewis eight and Gabby Watson seven.

Fortuna is now 1-5 in league and 8-15 overall.

Arcata 54, Ferndale 50

The Tigers trailed by 13 points late in the first half, but made a run to cut the deficit to six before halftime and began to take control in the third.

Nora Talty scored a team-best 13 points in the win, while Raymi Sharp added nine points and Leitala Vainuku seven.

“We got more balanced scoring than we have been and I was pleased with that,” said head coach Doug Oliveira, whose team improved to 11-9 on the season. “We kind of gutted it out. Ferndale is so disciplined and so fundamentally sound.

“Down the stretch we played smarter than we have on so many occasions when we had a chance to win a game.

“It’s a big win. Ferndale is a great program and really well coached.”

Reaghan Langer scored a game-high 20 points for the Wildcats, who dropped to 15-5, while Emily Chavez finished with 13 points and Kyla Albee had 10

“My team made a gallant effort at the end of the game to catch us up and give us an opportunity to possibly tie or take the lead,” said Ferndale head coach Terra Albee, who added, “It was a tough game for us that we can learn from, improve on, and start preparing for our next game.

“Arcata did a nice job tonight to get the win.”

Three of Ferndale’s five losses have come against Big 5 teams.

South Fork 37, Hayfork 21

Caidence Young continued her impressive season for the Cubs and scored a game-high 24 points in the win, outscoring the Hayfork team.

Macy Yarbrough also had a good game and finished with five points while Jalynn Worswick and Arianna Rose each chipped in four points. 

The win was the second in three games for a young South Fork team, which improved to 5-9.

The Cubs return to league play on Thursday when they host Little 4 leaders St. Bernard’s.

2 replies »

  1. Exciting stuff for the female teams…

    St. B’s and Del Norte coaches are very informative of how a game went… other coaches are painted as quiet or bland, a little boring and probably secretively contemptuous over stuff we’ll never know of…so, the stuff missed-the-cut…

    …now, on that EHS PRESS…

    1-2-1-1, 1-2-2, 2-1-2, 2-2-1… what type of Full Court Press… corners, central zone, baseline in-bounds only or dispossession/turnovers too…

    …EHS uses the FC press every season it seems, nothing new… it is part of the EHS female game, and to beat EHS is to understand press defense…

    Coaches coach, players listen and play; or, ride the pine…. there are no participation awards as a bench player, and the educational aspect may or may not be infringed upon by bullying and harassment, depending on the team structure, coaching and school administration…

    Personally, DNHS doing good is good for the “D” in H-DNL, as well as rest of league…

    Personally, St. B’s females seem headed to a showdown in Niclai Final…

    The Niclai family lost another clan member late in 2022… may she RIP🙏 .

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