It took a team effort, and a nervous finish, but the Hoopa Valley boys took care of business in their first-round North Coast Section basketball playoff game on Friday afternoon.
The Warriors held off a late rally by the visiting Blues to win 64-61 and advance to a quarterfinal matchup at Head-Royce in Oakland on Monday.
(Note: Hoopa Valley reported the score as 64-61 and not 65-61, as the NCS has it listed.)
“We played with good team effort. We fought hard all game,” Hoopa head coach Tyler MItchell said.
The home team had to withstand a late rally by the visitors, who narrowed a nine-point gap at the end of the third to pull within one score late in the game.
A missed Urban 3-point attempt in the dying seconds, however, was rebounded by the Warriors, who held on for the win.
“We’ve got to be mentally better late in games,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to improve our late-game execution. But overall, the players played with heart and it was a great effort.”
The game was played in front of a packed house of fans who were treated to an exciting contest.
Hoopa held a one-point lead after the opening quarter and stretched the advantage to six at halftime, with the visitors’ 3-point shooting keeping them in touch.
“If they didn’t hit those early 3s, we would have pulled away,” Mitchell said.
The Warriors stretched the lead to nine by the end of the third, but the Blues closed out the stronger of the two teams, outscoring the Warriors 24-18 in the fourth quarter, on the strength of a 10-of-11 effort from the free-throw line.
“It was a nail-biter,” Mitchell said.
Wade Nixon finished with a game-high 18 points as the visitors keyed in on George Navarro, holding the sensational senior to 16 points.
Nixon was instrumental in the first half and hit a big basket late in the game to help secure the win.
John Smith also had a big game for the home team, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds, while Sonny Jarnaghan added 10 points and Dennis Young eight.
“It was kind of a good all-around team effort,” Mitchell said. “We had five players with eight or more points.”
In a loaded Division-V bracket, the No. 5 seed Warriors will now move on to play at No. 4 Head-Royce in a rematch from earlier in the season when Hoopa lost 53-47.
“I’m sure they’ve gotten better like we have,” Mitchell said.
The quarterfinal has been pushed back from Saturday to Monday because of the delayed first-round game, giving Mitchell and his players the weekend to prepare for such an important game instead of an immediate turnaround.
The team will travel down on Sunday.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.