The Eureka girls knew that if they took care of business on Friday night, then it didn’t matter what happened in the other Big 5 game.
And they did that and more.
Having clinched at least a share of the league championship with their victory at Arcata on Wednesday, the Loggers comfortably got the better of the Panthers at McKinleyville by a score of 60-31 to secure the title outright.
They would have won it regardless after the Arcata girls traveled to Del Norte and upset the Warriors 76-70.
But the Loggers weren’t to know that, and they came to play against the Panthers, showcasing their experience and depth.
“We got off to a good start and kept it going,” head coach Cliff Napoleon said.
Kaitlin Giacone continued to play a pivotal role off the bench and scored a game-high 17 points in the win, as the Eureka girls closed out league play 7-1 and improved to 22-5 overall.
They also secured the top seed for next week’s Dick Niclai Tournament and will open on Thursday against either Ferndale or Hoopa at College of the Redwoods.
The league title is the second straight for the Eureka girls, who have been the top team in the H-DNL all season.
“They’re smart,” Napoleon said of this group. “And tonight was just a culmination of what’s been going on all year.
“They know their assignments and they all make all the adjustments now. And these girls get along. They’ve been playing together for so long, they play for each other.”
They also earned the respect of McKinleyville coach Jacob Cheek, who coached for several years at the junior high level and has watched these Eureka players mature on the court.
“I used to coach middle school locally and I’ve seen a lot of these girls and how much they’ve grown over the years, and how much better they’ve become,” he said.
Moriah Bowles also had a good night in the win and finished with 13 points, as did Isis Poteet, who added 12 points, and Amaya Gee, who chipped in eight.
Mariah Napoleon also was instrumental all season, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, creating opportunities for her teammates in transition.
Most of the roster are now two-time league champions.
“It’s exciting for these girls to win back-to-back leagues,” Napoleon said. “They came out and they played great.”
The team’s success over the past two seasons has been achieved thanks in large part to the players’ unselfish approach to the team.
“They make the extra pass to whoever’s open,” Cliff Napoleon said. “And that’s what makes a good team.”
Camryn Pinard led the way for McKinleyville and scored a team-high seven points in the loss.
Playing their final home game of the regular season, the Panthers honored their six seniors before the game tipped off.
“That’s another group I’ve seen grow since middle school,” Cheek said of his seniors, who include Pinard, Trinity Preston, Kim Lewis, Taya Gomes, Morgan Stubbs and Kalyssa Claros. “I’m so proud of how much they’ve grown and the amazing people they are. They do so much for our school. I’m so proud of them for everything they do in life.”
The Panthers closed out league play 4-4 and receive the No. 3 seed for the Niclai tournament. They open at Del Norte on Tuesday night.
Arcata 76, Del Norte 70
The Arcata Tigers closed out league play in impressive fashion, getting the better of the Warriors in Del Norte and improving to 3-5 in the Big 5 and 12-11 overall.
Nora Talty exploded for 26 points in the win, including four 3-pointers, in what was a back-and-forth game with little to separate the two teams.
Raymi Sharp also had a good game for Arcata and finished with 15 points, while teammate Alia Prentiss added 11 points and Lily Rust-Kelley had nine.
The Tigers led by three at halftime and by just one heading into the fourth quarter, but they outscored the home team 19-14 in the final period to secure the win.
Melanie Luh chipped in eight points and Caroline Dieker had four points.
“Hats off to Doug (Oliveira) and his girls, they played hard tonight,” Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton said of his counterpart. “We struggled early on the defensive end and boards. My girls stayed in the fight.”
Del Norte’s Lili Nunez continued to play at an MVP level and scored a game-high 27 points to go with eight rebounds four steals and four assists.
Brooklyn Carter also had a good game for the home team and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Jacalyn Gorbet had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Despite the loss, the Warriors finished second in league with a record of 5-3 and are now 16-7 overall.
Gianna Taylor added six points in the loss and Lauren Stutes pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Warriors will look to get back to winning ways when they host McKinleyville in the reopening round of the Dick Niclai Tournament on Tuesday night.
Categories: Basketball, Eureka, McKinleyville
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