By Ray Hamill — Even with one of their senior leaders still busy playing football, the Fortuna Huskies are off to a flying start this season, while living up to early expectations, and perhaps even surpassing them.
On Thursday, the Fortuna boys opened the Arcata tournament with another impressive win, topping Montgomery 69-49.
A seasoned Huskies team pulled away late to seal the victory, their sixth straight to start the campaign.
“We passed the ball well, and we hit some shots,” Fortuna head coach Tony Miles said. “We kind of concentrated on defense, and keeping the tempo up, and getting some open shots.”
So far so good for the returning co-Big 5 champs, who have most of their players back from last year’s team and are considered the frontrunners for the league title this year.
And in addition to their experience, this is also a team that appears to know the game well.
“These guys are such smart basketball players, and know what we have to do when we have to do it,” Miles said.
The Huskies feature a small squad with five seniors, four of whom have been setting the tone right out of the starting gates.
And all four came up big again on Thursday, with Donald Willis and Drew Gillette each scoring a team-high 17 points, and Bradley Willis adding 14 points.
“We are really senior heavy,” said Miles, who will also have senior Zac Claus on the team after he finishes up playing football this weekend. “They really took on the leadership role last year, and they’ve carried that over into this year.”
Kevin Noel is the fifth senior on the team, while Juniors Brandyn Martinez and Joseph Mcginnis round out the squad, with the latter scoring 12 points on Thursday.
With the win, the high-scoring Huskies have now scored 69 or more in five of their six games.
Fortuna plays Antioch on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
McKinleyville 51, Antioch 68
The Panthers came out a little flat and were unable to catch up after that against a Division-I Antioch team, which improved to 3-2.
Isaac Puzz led the Panthers with 11 points, with teammate Craig Peterson adding 10.
The Panthers trailed 37-26 at halftime and dropped to 2-3 with the loss.
“We didn’t bring any energy today,” McKinleyville head coach Sonny Tripp said. “We couldn’t find our momentum or rhythm on offense. We rushed shots and these guys (Antioch) are good. They’re big. But I’m a little disappointed in how we played.”
McKinleyville’s AJ Stubbs finished with eight points in the loss, while teammates Jake White and Michael Boatright each had six points.
The Panthers will try to bounce back when they continue tournament play against Montgomery on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Arcata 62, Red Bluff 44
The Arcata boys opened their own tournament with a comfortable win and an improved performance from last week’s McKinleyville tournament appearance.
“I thought we played better,” said Arcata head coach Dusty Scofield, whose team is now 2-2. “Defensively, we played a lot harder, a lot more connected. We still struggled offensively.”
Niko Zambas led the Tigers with 15 points, and lifted his team in the process.
“He gave us a big spark off the bench,” Scofield said of the junior guard, who had three 3-pointers.
Jaden Gorge and Jack Taylor each had nine points in the win, while teammate Garrett Hall finished with seven points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Taylor capped a good all-around performance with seven rebounds and three steals.
Cameron Dart also had a good game for the Tigers, finishing with seven points while playing solid all night at point guard.
Red Bluff dropped to 2-3.
The Tigers continue tourney play today at 8 p.m.
St. Bernard’s 61, Rincon Valley Christian 52
The Crusaders got the season off to a winning start with a nine-point win over Rincon Valley Christian at the Cloverdale tournament on Thursday.
Lane Thrap scored a team-high 21 points in the win, while Luke Fairfield added 15 points.