By Ray Hamill — The top two teams in the Little 4 lived up to the billing on Friday night and served up an exciting and hard-fought showdown in front of a packed gymnasium at Ferndale High to decide the year’s league championship.
And when the dust had settled, it was the St. Bernard’s Crusaders who walked away with the pennant after a 46-35 win.
But they had to battle all the way, digging deep in the second half to overturn what had been an 11-point deficit against a Wildcats team that came to play and fed off a great atmosphere.
“I am so proud of my players and coaches for their amazing performance tonight,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “The players left it all on the court tonight and my assistant coaches made amazing halftime adjustments.
“It was truly a great team effort tonight.”
It had to be to get the better of a Ferndale team that is the No. 1 Division-6 team in the state and a group of players that were clearly in no mood to easily surrender the league title they won a year ago.
There was little to separate these two rivals early on, with the home team holding a slender one-point advantage after a defensive opening quarter.
But the home team began to find its rhythm in the second quarter and opened up an 11-point lead after holding the visitors to just seven points for the opening 13 minutes of the game.
Kyla Albee was everywhere for the Cats and created several first half-baskets with her tenacious defense and ability to read the game.
The Crusaders, however, scored the final six points of the opening half, all from the outstanding Laila Florvilus, and cut the deficit to five going into the break.
They carried that momentum into the second half and capped a 20-2 run with a Mataya Sherman 3-pointer five minutes into the third quarter to lead 27-20.
Florvilus and teammate Madelyn Shanahan led the way for the Crusaders and continued to cause problems for the Cats all night.
Florvilus was forced from the game after falling hard late in the third quarter, but would return in the fourth to see out the game and help lead her teammates to victory.
“Laila Florvilus and Madelyn Shanahan were brilliant again tonight,” Tomlin said of his team’s relentless dynamic duo. “Florvilus dominated on the offensive end and Shanahan was blocking shots and controlling the rebounds on the defensive end.”
Florvilus, a sophomore guard, scored a game-high 23 points, while Shanahan added seven points and several key rebounds.
The Crusaders also got some big contributions from several other players, including a big spark from Rihana Fontenot.
“I thought a huge factor was the play of Rihana Fontenot off the bench,” Tomlin said of the junior forward, who scored four crucial points in the third with Shanahan and Florvilus on the bench because of foul trouble and the injury, respectively.
Sherman and Amaiyah Her also were instrumental in the win, with their coach praising them for the “toughness they bring to this team every game.”
The win not only secured the league title, but also gives the Crusaders a No. 1 seed and an opening round bye for next week’s Dick Niclai Tournament.
Just as impressive, the Crusaders improved to 20-4, giving them 20 wins for the first time in program history.
Her had six points, while Sherman and Fontenot each had four and Alyssa Boham two.
The outstanding Albee led the way for the Wildcats with 13 points, as well as numerous key rebounds and assists, while Emily Chavez continued to shine at point guard and finished with seven points.
Reaghan Langer added five points, Tinnley Pidgeon four, and Clara Albee and Carly Carmesin three apiece.
“Congrats to coach (Terra) Albee and her awesome team on a great regular season,” Tomlin said of the Ferndale head coach. “They are the No. 1 Division-6 team in the state for a reason. Good luck to them in the playoffs. I hope they win a state title.”
The SB girls closed out league play 5-1, while the Cats close out 4-2, with their only losses coming against St. Bernard’s, and are now 17-6 overall.
Next up, the Ferndale girls will host Hoopa in the opening round of the Niclai tournament on Tuesday, while the Crusaders will play either Del Norte or McKinleyville in the Thursday’s semifinals at College of the Redwoods.
In other Little 4 action on Friday night, Hoopa closed out league play with a 68-17 win over a shorthanded South Fork team.
The Cubs had just five players suit up but continued to battle, with Jalynn Worswick scoring a team-high eight points.
Caidence Young added seven points and Macy Yarbrough two.
No stats were immediately available for Hoopa.
The Warriors finished third in league with a record of 3-3.
Categories: Basketball, Ferndale, Hoopa Valley, South Fork, St. Bernard's
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