BIG 5 ROUNDUP — Arcata boys ‘ride the wave’ on the way to league title

File photo – Brandon Bento-Jackson

The Arcata Tigers clinched the Big 5 championship outright on Tuesday night after winning 72-65 at Eureka and improving to 7-0 in league play.

The league championship is the second straight for the Arcata Tigers, who had clinched at least a share of this year’s pennant after last week’s big win at McKinleyville.

“Obviously we’re excited to clinch the title outright. We definitely didn’t want to share it,” said Arcata head coach Kellen Maynard, whose team stretched its league winning streak to 14 straight games and will try to close out a perfect league campaign on Senior Night on Thursday when the Tigers host Del Norte in the regular season finale.

One of the team’s two seniors continued to play a pivotal role in Tuesday’s win.

Just five days after he scored 30 points against McKinleyville, Brandon Bento-Jackson scored a game-high 28 points at Eureka.

“Brandon’s just playing out of his mind right now,” Maynard said. “He’s playing at an MVP level.”

Kalani Butor also is playing outstanding down the stretch of the season and continued that on Tuesday with 19 points.

“He’s on fire right now,” Maynard said of the junior.

The Tigers had to dig deep to get the win, rallying from a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter and outscoring the home team 21-8 in the fourth quarter.

“I give a ton of credit to Eureka,” Maynard said. “That’s the best I’ve seen them play all year. They played phenomenal. It looked like they were in a different gear to us and they took it to us right from the get go.”

The Tigers’ motto all season has been “Ride the Wave,” and that’s exactly what they did, overcoming deficits in each of their past two games on the way to clinching the league title.

“If you want to be in the game at the end and have a chance to win, you have to ride that wave,” the coach said. “And fortunately for us, in the last two games we’ve been able to ride that wave and take their best punch, and in the fourth quarter we just buckled down and played defense.”

Luke Moxon also had a good night in the win and finished with 11 points, while Dawson Vallerga had eight points and Dayquan Dunn six.

Vallerga, a sophomore, showed some big composure in the win and made what Maynard described as the shot of the game.

After a couple of mistakes in the fourth quarter, the young guard stepped up and responded with a big-time 3-pointer to put his team up by six, and after that there was no way back for the home team.

The ever-dangerous Hans Chalmers continued to impress for a Loggers team that is playing its best basketball of the season right now and has played in four consecutive close games.

The senior standout scored a team-high 15 points and matched Bento-Jackson early in the game, before missing some time in the fourth quarter due to sickness.

“I think that was the difference in the game,” Eureka head coach Jimmy Rodgers said of his late absence. 

Rodgers added that “Bento-Jackson and Chalmers, they went at it toe-to-toe tonight. It was pretty awesome.”

Eureka sophomore Jahmil Rippey also continued to impress and finished with 14 points, including nailing 10 of 11 free throws.

“He hit some big shots tonight and was really consistent at the free throw line,” the coach said.

Jordan Urban added 13 points and Donovan Millender had nine points.

Millender made his presence felt in the paint off the bench, as did Kaiyani Dixon, who grabbed some crucial rebounds for the team, while sophomore Elijah Estrada continued to impress and has been a force for the Loggers since being called up from the JVs four games ago.

“For the most part it was a team effort tonight,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to be scary come playoff time.

“It was a battle. They played their tails off, and even though we lost I was very happy with the effort.”

The Tigers are now 15-6 on the season, while the Loggers are 1-6 in the Big 5 and 9-14 overall.

Fortuna 58, Del Norte 42

Cody Collins scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Huskies, who completed the league sweep over the Warriors and secured third place in the Big 5.

Leading by four at halftime, the Fortuna boys pulled away after the break on the way to their third straight win.

Russell Pascascio scored 14 points, as the Huskies improved to 4-4 in league and 17-9 overall, while Alfonso Medina added 11 points and Jake Houseworth finished with nine points.

Ethan Thomas scored a team-best 13 points for the Warriors, all of them in the opening half, as Del Norte dropped to 1-6 in league play and 8-15 overall.

Wyatt Robson added eight points, as did Ayden Antonetti, while Lyon Rigden chipped in six points.

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