By Ray Hamill — The Huskies are heading into the North Coast Section playoffs with plenty of momentum.
On Friday night, the Fortuna boys capped a remarkable season in the H-DNL with another spectacular performance in front of a large crowd at Lumberjack Arena, overwhelming Del Norte by a score of 78-66 to clinch the Dick Niclai tournament.
The Huskies opened up a double-digit lead before the end of the first quarter, and after that there was no way back for the Warriors, who just could not match Fortuna’s firepower.
The five starting seniors all continued to impress on a Fortuna team that appears to be getting better and is playing its best basketball of the season heading into a crucial time.
The Warriors’ defense frustrated the Huskies in the opening few minutes of the game, but the Big 5 champions quickly adjusted and began to take control of the clash about three minutes in.
They closed out the period on a 23-10 run and never really appeared in danger of losing the lead after that.
“We played well,” Fortuna head coach Tony Miles said. “We shot well, and defensively I thought we did really well after our coaches made some adjustments.”
Bradley Willis and Drew Gillette set the tone for the Huskies with 26 of their team’s 28 first-quarter points, which included six 3-pointers.
Gillette finished with a game-high 23 points, including five 3-pointers, while Willis finished with 18 points, 15 of them in the opening period alone.
Zac Claus added 22 points for Fortuna, which improved to 26-1 and has now won 13 straight.
Claus picked up the slack late in the game, scoring 13 of his tally in the fourth quarter, including three of his game-high six 3s.
Donald Willis also had a big game, finishing with nine points, while Kevin Noel continued to set the tone in the paint against a physical and dangerous Del Norte team.
“We didn’t lose our composure, and we shot the ball well and made some smart decisions,” Miles said.
The Huskies have been impressive all season and ranked among the top-two Division-IV teams in the state since early December, but their three performances over the past week have been particularly impressive.
And that’s good news for Fortuna fans with the NCS playoffs looming.
“Hopefully we’ll continue to grow,” Miles said. “We’ve definitely got some tough games coming up.”
Omar Banuelos led the Warriors with 19 points, while Nolan O’Kelly finished with 13 points, Ethan Price 11 and Judah Robinson nine.
With the loss, Del Norte dropped to 15-8.
The Warriors will open the NCS playoffs next week.