One of the more parity filled seasons of Big 5 Conference basketball came to a close Friday — and everyone is through to the Niclai, depending on how you look at it.
The McKinleyville High girls basketball team, which kept itself in contention for a Humboldt-Del Norte League Dick Niclai Tournament berth with a win against Eureka, ran away with Friday’s game against visiting Del Norte, topping the Warriors 53-39 on what was the Panthers’ senior night and forcing a three-way tie for third-place in the Big 5.
“Our intensity out of the gate was outstanding,” McKinleyville head coach Anthony McClure said. “I think we probably are playing our best basketball right now, but it all comes down to being healthy and being confident in what we do, and we have both of those things going for us right now.”
Rayn Tripp led the Panthers with 14 points and made three 3-pointers in the win. Jadence Clifton led Del Norte with 17 points.
Two weeks ago McKinleyville was far off from qualifying for the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs.
A couple Niclai wins, and the Panthers are probably in.
The biggest winner on Friday may very well be a team which trailed on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded.
Arcata (12-13, 3-5) fell at home 51-44 to Big 5 champion Fortuna (22-2, 7-1) Friday night — but thanks to its rival McKinleyville (3-5, 10-15) beating Del Norte (12-11, 3-5), Arcata nevertheless punched its ticket to a Niclai play-in game at Del Norte Saturday night.
Charlotte Carroll led Fortuna with 18 points in the win while Gracie Betts added 16. The win counts as the Huskies’ fifth in a row and sends them into the Niclai as the No. 1 seed and the clear favorite of the bunch.
Jocelyn Bliven led Arcata with 11 points in the loss while Tatum Carlin had 10.
Niclai play-in games
Decided by a series of coin-flips earlier in the week, the three-way tie for third-place and the final qualifying spot for the Niclai out of the Big 5 will be settled as follows: McKinleyville, by virtue of a coin-flip, will receive a bye and play at the winner of Saturday night’s game between Arcata at Del Norte.
Del Norte will host the game because it beat Arcata in both conference meetings this season.
The winner of Monday’s game will go down as the Big 5’s third-place finisher and will play at Eureka (17-9, 4-4) on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in the league
St. Bernard’s pushed its Little 4 Conference winning streak to 37 games on Friday with a 57-40 road win at South Fork.
Mackenzie Finck led St. Bernard’s (20-5, 6-0) with 14 points while Shelby Jordan chipped in 12.
St. Bernard’s will host the winner of Tuesday’s Niclai game between the two reaming Big 5 teams.
Note: check out Sunday’s edition of the Times-Standard for a look at the boys Nicali bracket.