With the NorCal tournament just a few days away, the Huskies won’t have long to dwell on Friday night’s 63-43 loss to top seed Branson in the Division-IV North Coast Section championship.
Making their first-ever appearance in a section decider, the No. 2 Huskies saw their chances slip away with a disappointing second-half performance.
“In the second half, our shooting kind of went cold, and (Branson) played really good defense,” Fortuna head coach Tony Miles said.
The Huskies matched the No. 1 ranked Division-IV team in the state stride for stride in the first half, and even led by two points at halftime.
They were unable to maintain that after the interval, however, and were held without a basket for the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
By then they found themselves facing a 21-point deficit and the game was well out of reach.
“I think in the first half we played like we wanted to play. We played our game,” Miles said. “And in the second half, Branson played their game.”
The Bulls, who claimed a third consecutive NCS crown, stretched their winning streak to 26 straight and relied largely on their trademark dominating defense.
“They’re a really, really good defensive team,” Miles said.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
“We missed some shots, and we had some uncharacteristic turnovers,” the coach added. “We had 18 turnovers, which doesn’t ever happen to us.”
The Huskies, who are 29-2 on the season, will immediately now turn their attention to next week’s big tournament.
They will find out who their opponents are on Sunday.
“Our boys of course were disappointed, but we re-iterated after the game that it’s not over,” Miles said. “We’ve got the NorCal tournament, and we’ve got to move past this performance.”
Bradley Willis scored 15 points and Drew Gillette 10 for Fortuna, which was held to a season-low in points scored.
Donald Willis added nine points and Zac Claus seven.
Viktor Rajkovic scored a game-high 32 points for Branson, which improved to 29-2.