South Fork’s varsity boys battled their way into a three-way tie for second place with a 41-35 victory over the visiting Ferndale Wildcats Friday night and then lost the tiebreaker the very next evening 59-53 to St. Bernard’s in Eureka.
Against Ferndale the Cubs looked hungry and smart and overcame some hard luck shooting with proactive defense against the much bigger Wildcats. "We executed our game plan well," said head coach Jake Mitchell. "We fronted their big guys and double teamed them. The kids played very well as a team."
With little room to operate in the paint against the taller Ferndale inside players, Cubs’ senior center Damian Alatorre was held to just 4 points. But junior guard Jesus Lopez had a breakout performance, scoring a season-high 19 points including three times from behind the 3-point arc.
Junior Cristian Lopez added 13, senior Levi Paine had 4 and junior Joey Wittlake made a free throw.
Ferndale -9 -6 -7 -13 --35
South Fork -9 -12 -7 -13 --41
Earlier in the week a three-way coin toss had been done to determine how to resolve the tie for second place in the Humboldt Del Norte Little Four Conference potentially shared by South Fork, St. Bernard’s and Ferndale, all of whom split league series with each other while being defeated twice by undefeated champion Hoopa Valley. It was determined that South Fork would travel to St. Bernard’s Saturday evening for a "play-in" to see who would then host Ferndale in the opening round of the Niclai county championship on Monday night.
In a game in which momentum was stifled by 46 foul calls South Fork fell to the Crusaders after mounting a come-back from a 14 point deficit that started with 4:26 on the clock in the 4th quarter. Down by just 2 points with less than a minute to go, the Cubs missed a lay-up and 2 free throws and the home team sneaked away with the win.
The Cubs were mostly without the services of Levi Paine who was injured in the first quarter. They were a dismal 18 for 38 from the frequently visited free throw line while St. Bernard’s was 20 for 31. Two Cubs fouled out of the game.
"We just missed too many easy shots and free throws," said Mitchell.
Cristian Alatorre led the team in scoring with 20 points, Damian Alatorre had 17, junior Joey Wittlake had 7, senior Ismael Lopez had 5, Paine had 2 and Jesus Lopez made a free throw.
South Fork -10 -12 -10 -21 --53
St. Bernard’s -16 -13 -12 -18 --59
While the Cubs are out of the local post-season they still stand a strong chance of getting a berth in the Division 5 North Coast Section Championship schedule to open Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Seeding for the tournament will take place on Sunday.
The Cubs have defeated two other Division 5 teams this season: College Prep and Redwood Christian and are ranked 10th in the section. Hoopa Valley is also a D-5 school and is ranked fourth.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE BUSHNELL
Cristian Alatorre, No. 20, goes for the shot, with Damian Alatorre, No.24, and Troy Langley, No. 15 backing him up.