Special Olympics basketball returns to the North Coast

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Eureka’s Tina Neily reacts during Friday’s championship game at Eureka High School.

By Ray Hamill — Special Olympics basketball returned to the North Coast on Friday and it was a huge success, according to participants and tournament organizers.

Four high school teams traveled to Eureka to play at the iconic Jay Willard Gymnasium, with a large crowd in attendance to take in four games.

The McKinleyville Panthers won the tournament championship with wins over Fortuna and Eureka, but they had to battle all the way.

The host Loggers gave the Panthers all they could handle in the final, before McKinleyville prevailed 23-21.

“It was fantastic,” Eureka teacher and one of the tournament organizers Melaina Valdez said. “It was the coolest thing. We had lots of peer support in the stands.”

Several Eureka teachers and students stopped by to take in the action, showcasing their support for the players.

The Fortuna Huskies battled back from their tournament-opening loss to beat Arcata in the third-place game.

And the players enjoyed the occasion and the opportunity to compete in front of a large crowd.

“They had a blast,” added Valdez, who is the school’s adapted physical education teacher for students with disabilities. “They would not stop smiling.”

The tournament was the first locally since pre-COVID days, but Valdez says they will be back again next year, possibly playing in the new Jay Willard Gymnasium, which is scheduled to open its doors this summer.

“100 percent we’ll do it again next year,” Valdez said.

The McKinleyville roster featured Tsenikyaw VanPelt, Felix Arbaugh, Terry Overbey, Zachary Proctor, Xander Robinson, Miles Jackson, Jasmine Meyer and Michael Conley.

The Eureka roster featured Tate Naylor, Caden Naylor, Elijah Alonso-Riall, Owen Laramore, Josslyn “Jazzy” Larson, Tina Neily, Camille Ranaio, Jaycile Satterwhite, David Welch, Briana Albertson-Vasquez, Isaiah Payton and Chevelle Fells.

The Arcata roster featured Sean Wilson, Patricia MacDonald, Richard Miranda-Ojeda, Arwen Vliver, Jarrod Wanek, Jayden Waterman, Nico Clemens, Mykai Bowmen, Ayla Kimmel, Heather Cark and Jayd Milton.

The Fortuna roster featured Emily W., Emily C., Wiliam, Gage, Melanie, Melissa, Parker, Ethan, Ben, Sierra, Theresa, Hunter, Sam and Jed.

Submitted photo – The Eureka Loggers

Submitted photo – The Fortuna Huskies



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