By Ray Hamill — It certainly hasn’t been an easy road for the H-DNL teams in this year’s basketball playoffs.
Of the 13 local teams that have lost a game in the North Coast Section tournament going into Saturday night’s Division-V girls championship game at St. Bernard’s, six of them fell to either the No. 1 or 2 ranked team in the state for their division.
That’s almost half of them having to face a top-two team in California, an incredible statistic that shows how competitive the section is.
The good news for most of those still alive is that next week’s NorCal tournament won’t be any tougher.
It literally can’t be.
On Friday night, Fortuna lost the Division-IV boys NCS championship to Branson, the No. 1 D-IV team in the state, according to MaxPreps.
On the same night, the Del Norte girls lost their championship game to St. Patrick-St. Vincent, the No. 2 ranked Division-IV girls team in the state.
Earlier in the week, the Hoopa Valley boys fell in the semifinals to Stuart Hall, the No. 1 ranked Division-V team in the state, while the Eureka girls fell to Salesian, the No. 1 ranked Division-III girls team in the state.
And it doesn’t end there.
Last weekend, the McKinleyville girls also lost to St. Patrick-St. Vincent, while the Del Norte boys lost their quarterfinal to Fortuna, the No. 2 ranked D-IV team in California.
(Interestingly, Fortuna started the week as No. 2 before dropping one spot midweek, and then climbing back up to No. 2, with minimal ranking points separating them and No. 3 Fairmont Prep out of Anaheim.)
So that’s a total of six local teams to bow out of the NCS against programs that are either No. 1 or 2 in the state in their respective divisions.
That’s literally as tough as it gets.
For the five local teams still alive in the NorCals, Sunday’s draw will obviously be key, but particularly so with the way teams can move up in divisions.
For all of them, much will depend on what bracket they are placed in.
But there is every reason to believe all five can make some noise, with one or two of them well capable of going a long ways.
After last week, they’ll certainly be well prepared for it.