The Fortuna Huskies lived up to their billing as conference favorites on Thursday night, running out to a 61-46 win on the road at Del Norte in the Big 5 basketball opener for both teams.
The game was closer than the final score would suggest, with just six points separating the two schools until late in the fourth quarter.
But the Huskies’ high-octane offense wore down the home team, as it has so many opponents this season, and they improved to 1-0 in the Big 5 and 15-1 on the season.
The game was one of two in the Big 5 on Thursday night, with the Arcata Tigers traveling to Eureka High and coming away with a 73-46 victory.
In the Little 4, St. Bernard’s beat Ferndale 50-42 in both teams’ conference opener.
Elsewhere, Hoopa defeated Trinity 74-44 in the Warriors’ opening game at the Etna tournament.
Fortuna 61, Del Norte 46
Drew Gillette scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Huskies to a win in what many people thought would be their most difficult challenge in conference play this year, on the road at Del Norte.
Gillette nailed all four of his free throws and had five 3-pointers, including a pivotal 3 midway through the fourth quarter to put his team up by nine.
The Huskies started the stronger of the two teams, running out to a 17-7 lead after the opening quarter, and they led by nine at halftime.
The home team, however, responded after the break in a back-and-forth third quarter, going on an 11-0 run at one stage to pull within four.
But that was as close as they would get, as the Huskies pulled away down the stretch.
“We played okay,” Fortuna head coach Tony Miles said. “We had a lot of uncharacteristic turnovers, which kept it close. However, (Del Norte) played really, really good pressure.”
Bradley Willis and Donald Willis each finished with 14 points for Fortuna, while Zac Claus had eight.
The Huskies shot 13 3-pointers, and when they needed to they stepped up in what can be a difficult arena to play in.
“I think we kept our composure,” Miles said. “It was a really physical game, and in the past we’ve had problems with real physical games. And we ran our offense.”
The Fortuna boys will play their first home game of the season against Eureka on Saturday.
In JV action, Del Norte won 68-63 in overtime, remaining undefeated on the season at 5-0.
The Fortuna JVs are now 10-7.
Arcata 73, Eureka 46
The Tigers opened the Big 5 with a road win at Eureka on Thursday night, and appear to be building some consistency.
“I thought we played harder for longer,” Arcata head coach Dusty Scofield said. “Our execution and concentration was better.”
It’s been an early season of adjustment for the Tigers, who are adapting to life under a new head coach.
But Thursday’s performance appeared to be a step in the right direction, as the visitors took control of the game early and never looked in danger of losing.
“We didn’t play well, and Arcata played real well,” Eureka head coach Robbie Thompson said. “They moved the ball well, and they had nice balance scoring. That’s how basketball is supposed to be played.”
Garrett Hall led that balanced Arcata offensive performance with a game-high 16 points, while teammate Niko Zambas finished with 11.
For Eureka, Cahliel Garner scored a team-high 14 points, with Miles Meynell adding 12 and Jaeden Thayer seven.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 7-9, while Eureka dropped to 2-9.
Kai Pajares also had an impact for the Tigers, scoring nine points, while Jack Taylor finished with eight and Jacob Stoker, Jason Tuermer-Lee and Hunter Santsche each finished with seven.
Next up for Eureka is a difficult trip to take on league favorites Fortuna on Saturday.
“We’ve got to get better real fast,” Thompson said.
The Tigers, meanwhile, will play at McKinleyville in a key league showdown, also on Saturday.
“We’ll find out more about ourselves when we play McKinleyville,” Scofield.
In JV action on Thursday, the Eureka boys defeated Arcata 56-48.
St. Bernard’s 50, Ferndale 42
The Crusaders opened the Little 4 with a hard-fought eight-point win at Ferndale on Thursday night.
Lane Thrap led St. Bernard’s with 31 points, while Logan Petrusha had a big impact off the bench on both sides of the ball, scoring 11 points and turning in a strong defensive performance.
“Ferndale put up a good fight and it was a close game throughout,” St. Bernard’s head coach Steve Thrap said.
The win lifts the Crusaders to 1-0 in conference play and 6-5 on the season. The four-time defending league champs have now won 27 consecutive games in the Little 4, dating back to January 2014.
Ferndale dropped to 7-4.