Five Takeaways — H-DNL girls teams make a statement

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Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — What a weekend it was for local high school basketball, with four girls teams winning their respective tournaments, and the Fortuna boys rolling to an 11th consecutive victory and a third straight tournament win.

Here then are five takeaways from the weekend in prep basketball …

1 — H-DNL girls teams make a statement

It’s shaping up to be a good year for the Humboldt-Del Norte League girls teams.

On Saturday, Eureka, Del Norte, McKinleyville and Ferndale each won their respective tournaments, while three others went 2-1 at theirs.

Leading the charge is Eureka and Del Norte, which won the Lincoln and Hidden Valley tournaments, respectively.

Both are currently ranked in the top 10 among all North Coast Section teams, with the Warriors No. 8 and Eureka No. 10.

Of the nine H-DN girls teams, only one currently has a losing record, while four are ranked in the top four in their respective divisions.

Del Norte is No. 1 in Division IV, Eureka No. 3 in Division III, St. Bernard’s No. 3 in Division V, and Ferndale No. 4 in Division VI.

It should be a fun season.

2 — Fortuna boys remain top-ranked D-IV team in California

Impressive and all as several of the girls teams have been so far, none of them have looked quite as good as the Fortuna boys.

The only undefeated local team, the Huskies have rolled out to an 11-0 record, while winning all three of their tournaments.

Drew Gillette has been sensational for Fortuna, with Donald Willis, Bradley Willis, Kevin Noel and Zac Claus all playing major roles.

The Huskies remain ranked No. 1 in both the NCS and state Division-IV rankings, and are No. 26 overall in California.

They have a break in action until the day after Christmas, when they travel to the Windsor tournament, opening against Albany.

3 — Several boys’ teams still a work in progress

While the local girls’ teams have impressed early, many of the boys’ squads remain a work in progress, with Fortuna an obvious exception. 

Four of the other eight teams do have a winning record right now, so it’s certainly not all bad news.

But consistency has been a problem for many, including McKinleyville, Hoopa Valley and Arcata, each of whom struggled at times during the Logger Classic this past weekend.

Expect them to build that consistency before league play rolls around in early January. 

If not, they won’t be challenging for much in 2019.

4 — Girls Big 5 opener set for Wednesday

No better way to get the Big 5 under way than an unpredictable showdown between arguably the two biggest rivals in the conference.

Arcata and McKinleyville open league play on Wednesday night in a game that has been brought forward from Jan. 2.

A year ago, the Tigers rolled to their sixth straight league title, while the Panthers closed out the year with their 17th straight league loss.

That won’t mean much this time around, however, with a new-look young Arcata team, and an experienced Mack squad riding the momentum of a strong early season.

5 — Football players return

Fortuna and Eureka were the final two teams to welcome back their football players into the basketball fold this past week.

And the returning players made an immediate impact for both.

The Loggers welcomed back several players who had been busy with football, and got their first win of the season after going 0-6 in their absence.

Fortuna, meanwhile, welcomed back point guard Zac Claus, who also started at quarterback for the NCS Division-IV champions.

The Huskies managed just fine before Claus returned, storming out to an 8-0 start without him.

But his return makes them even stronger, and he played a big role in the team’s tournament win.

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