Basketball

Fortuna seniors in a class of their own

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Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Fortuna’s Drew Gillette is one of six seniors on this year’s team.

By Ray Hamill — It’s been a fun year for the Fortuna Huskies in sports, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon.

The school has already claimed North Coast Section championships in both boys soccer and football, while placing third at the NCS Redwood Empire Dual Team Wrestling Championships at Eureka High on Saturday.

And all of that doesn’t even include the boys basketball team, which could be better than any of them.

It certainly appears so as they get ready for the upcoming NCS and state playoffs, and few teams have been able to slow down this dynamic group of players on their way to a very impressive 24-1 regular season record.

This year’s Huskies are good.

Elite good.

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Seniors Zac Claus and Kevin Noel.

They are ranked No. 2 among Division-IV teams in both the NCS and state, trailing only high-flying Branson in each.

And if those are the two teams to move onto the state playoffs from the NCS, teams from the the other sections around the state are going to have their hands full.

Playing together

As with any good team, the Huskies make the game look easy, almost natural, carving their way through opponents with an almost casual precision.

In other words, they’re fun to watch.

Part of that is down to the fact this is a supremely talented senior class, and part of it is down to the fact they’ve all been playing alongside each other for several years.

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Bradley Willis

It’s also a close group that seems to embrace the team-first mentality, with a genuine sense of gratification in seeing their teammates succeed.

“Two or three of them have been playing together since they were in fifth or sixth grade,” head coach Tony Miles said. “And they’ve all been playing together for a long time.”

You can see it in the way they play too, with the sort of awareness and understanding you can’t coach or develop overnight.

And they don’t have one star. They have several league MVP candidates.

“Nobody cares who’s the high scorer in any game,” the head coach added. “They all get along so well, and they’re such smart basketball players. They all have a high basketball IQ.”

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Donald Willis

More impressively, it’s a team of players that rarely looks rattled, most notably in a recent showdown at home to Del Norte when they trailed for much of the game before pulling out an overtime win to keep their unbeaten league run going. 

“They’re just a calm group of basketball players,” Miles said. “And I think that really helps us out. It helps them stay focused on the game. They don’t get super excited, or super mad.”

They are, however, enjoying the moment, as they should.

“They don’t show a lot of emotion, but I know they’re excited,” the head coach said.

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Zac Claus

Packed house for senior night

The team has enjoyed plenty of support from the Fortuna fans, who have traveled in loud and enthusiastic numbers this season, and packed their home gymnasium on Friday night to celebrate the team’s senior class.

They had reason to celebrate as well.

The team features six seniors, five of whom — Drew Gillette, Zac Claus, Kevin Noel, and twins Bradley and Donald Willis — are all starting together for the second straight year, as well as Jason Besanceney, who sees plenty of action off the bench.

All six were honored before the game, and they gave the packed house a performance to remember in an outrageously high-scoring 98-85 win.

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Jason Besanceney

It was the most points the Huskies have scored or allowed this season, against an in-form McKinleyville team that had won five straight games coming in.

“It was packed,” Miles said. “And it was loud. And it was high scoring, and very entertaining. A crazy high scoring game.”

The Huskies will open the Niclai tournament at home to either South Fork or St. Bernard’s on Thursday, and if they get past that, they will play for the tournament championship on Friday night.

The NCS playoffs tip off the following week.

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