Warriors Roll Past South Fork to Win League Title
By Shelly Middleton, TRT Contributing Writer
The Hoopa Warriors came out in true form last Friday night against the South Fork Cubs in front of an intensity-filled Mattz Gymnasium, collecting the victory, 70-50, and clenching the league title with an undefeated record of 5-0 (19-4 overall).
Hoopa’s Milton Stewart jumped out of the gate with a quick double to put the Warriors on the board within seconds, while Tahn Blake, kept up the momentum with a layup to set the tone for the night.
Forward Dakota Mosier showed the defending Cubs that home team advantage would be executed on both ends of the courts. Mosier’s defensive block in the paint, with less than two minutes in the game, landed in the hands of teammate
Tulley O’Rourke who took advantage of the Cubs’ sluggish start, and increased the lead to 8-0.
South Fork’s star guard, Christian Allatore, South Fork’s leading scorer with 25 points, sank a three-pointer with 6:13 in the first quarter, putting the score at 8-3.
The cubs capitalized on a timeout that slowed Hoopa’s run.
A three-pointer followed by another layup would cut Hoopa’s lead to three, 11-8. The Cubs quickly pulled ahead for the first and only time ending the first quarter at 21-20.
Hoopa returned with a vengeance in the second quarter, regaining the lead in the opening seconds. Stewart, Hoopa’s leading scorer of the night, brought the crowd to their feet with another three-pointer and sophomore Nah-Tes Jackson followed suit with a trio of his own in the first minute of play.
Stewart continued clawing away at the Cubs. He drew an offensive foul on the baseline, which allowed Hoopa to regain possession. Blake took full advantage and answered by putting three more points on the board, bringing the score to 29-21.
The Warriors remained calm and chipped away at a frustrated Cubs defense, with Stewart leading the way. Hoopa’s center added another three points, two from the perimeter and one from the free throw line, increasing Hoopa’s lead to 11, with just under four minutes left in the second.
It wasn’t until the first half was nearly complete that the Cubs were able to buy a basket. Allatore sank two free throws with 2:34 on the clock, 34-23.
The Warrior’s defense ambushed the frustrated Cub starting lineup, holding them to only one more field goal before the half ended, 41-25. Hoopa outscored their opponents 21-6 in the second quarter.
The Warriors came out flat in the third quarter and seemed to trade places with their opponents, as both teams only scored 6 points apiece in the second and third quarters. The Cubs outscored Hoopa 11-6 in the second half opener; something Coach Tom McClure said is customary for the Warriors.
“We went through a dry spell. South Fork got a little bit more physical than earlier in the game and it took us a while to adjust,” he said.
Physical indeed—midway through the fourth quarter, both teams were shooting double bonus.
A regenerated Warrior offense came out fired up and picked up where they left off in the first half.
O’Rourke opened with a three pointer, and Stewart, who sat for several minutes in the third quarter, followed with a left-handed lay-in and finished up with a free throw to turn it into a three point play after being fouled on the shot.
The spread was extended to 12 points, 52-40, with 7:06 minutes on the clock. The gymnasium erupted in celebration as the Cub fans gleamed in frustration. Hoopa was back on top.
Stewart continued on his war path, as even three defenders could not stop him. He hit a jumper in the paint and was fouled on his next shot, sending him to the free throw line; 54-44, with fewer than five minutes left in the game.
As the clock quickly ticked away, lessoning their chances at walking away with the victory, an openly discouraged South Fork’s head coach was called for a technical foul. O’Rourke went one for two at the line and increased the score to 56-44.
It was all downhill for the Cubs from that point on, and Hoopa walked away with the win, 70-50.
The Warriors are now 5-0 in league and 19-4 overall. Hoopa still has several league games left, their next scheduled for Thursday, February 13 against Ferndale in Hoopa. The outcome will not change their status in the Little Four conference, however their ranking in the playoffs is yet to be determined.
Currently the Warriors are ranked fifth in the North Coast Sections and because of their success against larger and higher ranked schools, Hoopa will most likely host at least one home game during playoffs.
Stewart led all scorers with 26 points, while O’Rourke pitched in 13 and Blake also hit double digits with 11.