By Ray Hamill — League play opens in earnest for most of the local high schools on the basketball courts this week, with at least one key matchup right off the bat.
On Thursday night the Fortuna boys open at Del Norte, in a showdown between the Big 5’s apparent two frontrunners.
The Huskies will begin league play as the favorites, having lost just once in 15 games, and are currently ranked second to Branson in both the Division-IV state and North Coast Section rankings.
But the Warriors have also impressed through the early season, compiling a record of 8-3.
After the top two, however, there has been a lot of inconsistency among the trailing group, with McKinleyville (7-6), Arcata (6-9) and Eureka (2-8) all still trying to establish a consistent identity.
On their day, the Panthers are probably the next best threat in the Big 5, and they appear to have the balance to compete with the frontrunners, with some size and physicality matching their at-times quality perimeter shooting.
The problem, however, has been inconsistency.
And that’s something that has also plagued the Tigers, as they adapt to a new head coach in Dusty Scofield this season, while the Loggers essentially began their campaign two weeks later than their rivals, with most of their players playing football well into December.
The Loggers had just one win in the Big 5 a year ago, and it’s difficult to tell yet just how improved they can be this winter, although there have been encouraging signs in their recent games that they are beginning to find their way.
Warriors lead the L4 charge
In the Little 4, Hoopa Valley appears to be the team to beat, with plenty of offensive firepower, including the ever-dangerous George Navarro.
The Warriors are off to an impressive start with a record of 10-4, but have dropped in the rankings recently, falling as far as No. 8 among NCS Division-V schools, having been as high as No. 2.
Hoopa, however, remains the third highest ranked team locally in the NCS at No. 67 overall, 15 spots ahead of Mack (82) and 26 places ahead of Arcata (93), each of whom has knocked off the Warriors this season.
Ferndale at 7-3 is also off to an impressive start this winter and would appear to be the most likely challengers for Hoopa in the Little 4, while four-time defending champion St. Bernard’s is also expected to be in the mix.
Like many of the local boys teams, the Crusaders have been way too inconsistent through the early going, and they’ll have to overcome that quickly if they want to challenge for a fifth consecutive league title.