When the team ranked first in the North Coast Section and fifth in the state by MaxPreps.com comes to town, you know you’re in for a rough ride.
That’s how it was for the Napa High girls basketball team Thursday night as it was felled by the Eureka Loggers, 59-30, in the opening-round of the Wine Valley Tournament at Messner Gym.
“I’m actually really happy with the way played, despite the final score,” said Indians head coach Darci Ward. “They’re a really good team, and better than any team in our league.”
Napa (1-4) actually led 2-0 after Anna Ghisletta scored off the opening tip. But then the contest went much as one would expect when facing an undefeated and ranked team that goes 6-2, 5-11 and 5-11 across its front line.
Eureka (7-0) scored early and often to run out to a 20-9 lead in the first quarter, despite Ghisletta scoring seven for Napa.
In the second quarter, the Loggers seemed to forget their identity and began launching threes despite their inside height advantage. In fact, Napa surprised the Loggers by outscoring them 12-9 in the stanza. By halftime, Eureka looked rattled as it left the court with just a 29-21 lead.
“I’m so proud that we cut their lead to eight at halftime by really battling,” Ward noted.
When the third quarter began, it was clear the Loggers were going back to their strength as they scored virtually at will near the basket while forcing Napa well outside for 3-point attempts that weren’t falling. Napa didn’t score in the quarter until Jane McLoughlin knocked in a jumper with 30 seconds left. Eureka outscored the Indians 19-2 in the quarter, which ended with the Loggers up 48-23.
The highlight of the fourth quarter for Napa was when Sofia Brandon swished a long three, but the outcome was never in doubt. Both teams cleared their benches and Eureka ran out to a comfortable victory and advanced to Friday’s semifinal against Thursday’s Shasta-Liberty winner.
Ward was pleased her team held Eureka’s 6-foot-2 center, senior Alana Dunphy, to just two points.
“That was our big emphasis in practice, because we don’t have anyone over 5-8,” she said. “We battled, but we didn’t have the horses tonight.”
Ward note that her Indians play 17 preseason games with the goal of getting ready for league.
“We set up a challenging preseason every year,” she said. “I just hope we keep getting better and better.”
Ghisletta led Napa with seven points, Brandon had six, Faith Bartlett and McLoughlin added four apiece, Malia Blackmon scored three, and Caitlyn Neal, Breck Hearn and Carly Johnson had two apiece.
Eureka’s athletic forwards, Makaila Napoleon and Kaylee Murphy, led the Loggers with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Liberty 59, Napa 42
Fans hoping to see a Napa-Vintage matchup in Saturday’s Wine Valley Tournament consolation final were denied by the Lions (4-7) as they handed the Indians (1-5) their second loss of the tournament Friday.
Napa will play Tracy in the seventh-place game Saturday with an early 10:30 a.m. tipoff. Liberty will try to beat Vintage for the second year in a row in the consolation final, which has a 12 p.m. tipoff.
“I hope we come out ready to play tomorrow,” Ward said. “I’m not happy with our performance tonight. I didn’t feel like we played to our ability. We didn’t play as a team and I’m very frustrated. But as a coach, I need to take responsibility for that and change up what we’re doing at practice. We’ll definitely be making some changes.”
After Liberty scored first, Brandon tied it for Napa at 2-2. But the taller Lions scored the next 12 points for a comfortable lead they would never relinquish.
Brandon canned another shot to end the Liberty run and bring Napa within 16-6. Hearn also scored to keep the Lions’ lead at 10 as the quarter ended.
In the second quarter, Johnson showed Napa had some fight left by breaking away for a layup off the opening tip, drawing the Indians within eight. Then the Lions showed some fight of their own by running out to 26-11 lead with 3:30 to play. Blackmon, playing well, hit six points in a row for Napa to keep the Indians in the game at halftime 32-17.
The third quarter began in promising fashion with Anna Ghisletta’s stylish running jumper bringing Napa within 35-21 with 5:50 left. But Liberty went on another run and it was only Johnson’s long 3-pointer that kept the game from getting completely out of hand.
Johnson’s bucket cut a 21-point Lion lead to 18 with three minutes left in the quarter. Ghisletta nailed a nice jumper to bring Napa even closer at 41-28 as the clock wound down. Blackmon’s long three with 45 seconds left got the Indians even closer, but Liberty answered with two quick buckets before the quarter ended with the Lions leading by 16.
Liberty started fast in the fourth quarter and, before a minute was gone, the Lions’ lead was 51-31. Blackmon’s long three from the corner again cut into the Liberty margin, but the Lions always seemed to have an answer and scored on the next trip down the hardwood. Hearn makes a creative hook shot for the Indians, but again Liberty answers to keep its lead at 21.
McLoughlin’s smooth outside jumper drew Napa within 17 at 1:43, but the clock was not on the Indians’ side and Lions ran out winners by 17 points.
Blackmon led Napa with 14 points, Johnson added nine, Hearn chipped in eight, Brandon and Ghisletta had four each, and McLoughlin rounded out the scoring with three.