BIG 5 ROUNDUP — Loggers clinch a share of Big 5; Warriors remain in the hunt

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Action from Wednesday night’s game at Arcata.

The Eureka Loggers have successfully defended their Big 5 championship in girls basketball, clinching at least a share of the title with a 53-38 win at Arcata on Wednesday night.

But with their closest challengers, Del Norte, also winning at Fortuna on Wednesday, the Eureka girls will need to win at McKinleyville in Friday’s finale to claim the championship outright.

Isis Poteet scored a team-high 15 points in the win, as the Eureka girls improved to 6-1 in league play (21-5 overall) with one game remaining.

Kaitlin Giacone also had a good game and finished with 10 points, while Amaya Gee and Moriah Bowles each added nine points.

“The back line on defense did a great job with securing the paint,” Eureka head coach Cliff Napoleon said. “And trust me, trying to keep Caroline (Dieker), Melanie (Luh) and the rest of Arcata off the boards is no easy task.”

The Tigers were led by Alia Prentiss, who scored a team-high 14 points, while Dieker finished with nine points.

First-half turnovers were costly for the Tigers, as the Loggers went on an 11-2 run to close out the first half and open up a 13-point lead at the break.

“They’re a good team and you can’t make mistakes against a good team, otherwise it hurts you,” Arcata head coach Doug Oliveira said. “And there were several possessions, especially early in the game, where they started to get out in front of us and we turned the ball over, and you just can’t do that against a good team.”

Prentiss was instrumental in helping to keep the Tigers within reach, and Oliveira was happy with his players’ effort.

“I felt in spite of the mistakes the kids played hard and competed,” the coach said.

The loss drops the Tigers to 2-5 in league play and 11-11 overall and ended any hopes of qualifying for next week’s Dick Niclai Tournament.

Playing their final home game of the regular season, before the game the Tigers honored their six seniors — Dieker, Lily Rust-Kelley, Ai-Lan McGoldrick, Violet Moon, Trinity Hamm and Raymi Sharp.

Rust-Kelley is a four-year-varsity player.

“Looking down the road, the program will really miss her leadership,” said Oliveira, who added of Dieker, “she’s been kind of the rock for us in the middle this year.”

Sharp and Moon are in their first year at Arcata and both had an immediate impact.

“She’s really made a difference on our team,” the coach and of Sharp.

Moon, meanwhile, battled back from a serious injury to return to the court this winter.

“It’s just been great to have her around the program,” Oliveira said. 

McGoldrick, who is also a standout cross country and track athlete, played basketball this season for the first time since her freshman year and also had a big impact off the bench.

“She’s a great kid, a great competitor and a great athlete, and she really made a difference for us,” Oliveira said. 

Hamm’s effort was also well received.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that works harder than she has,” the head coach said.

A victory for Eureka at McKinleyville on Friday will not only secure the league championship outright but will also give the Loggers the No. 1 seed and an opening-round bye for the Niclai tournament.

A loss could open the door for the Warriors, who are 5-2 in league play and can still share the championship and possibly earn the top seed for next week’s tournament.

McKinleyville is guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed regardless of what happens on the final night and can still tie for second in league play.

Del Norte 44, Fortuna 26

The Huskies matched up well against the Warriors for the opening half and led by six points early in the third quarter.

But with their championship hopes on the line, the Del Norte girls closed out the game on a dominating 28-4 run to help seal the win.

The ever-dangerous Lili Nunez scored a game-high 24 points in the victory as the Del Norte girls improved to 5-2 in league play and 16-6 overall, while Lily Wilson added six points and Brooklyn Carter and Jacalyn Gorbet each chipped in four points.

The Warriors enjoyed a big night on the boards.

Haylee Younkey and Allie Cox each scored a team-high six points for the Huskies, who dropped to 1-7 and 8-17.

Mariah Bravo and Ashley Tully each chipped in four points.

Del Norte hosts Arcata on Friday night and need a win to keep their title hopes alive.

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