By Ray Hamill — If you want to put the 2018/19 local high school basketball season into perspective, think about it this way — this year we had the most successful Big 5 team of the past decade and the most successful Little 4 team of the past decade.
The St. Bernard’s girls made it to the final four of state play in Division V, and finished with 26 wins, more than any other Little 4 team in the last 10 years.
The Fortuna boys, meanwhile, finished with a record of 30-3, giving the Huskies more wins in a single season than any other Big 5 team in the past decade, and less losses than anyone but the 2011 McKinleyville girls, who also lost just three times.
Add in a Del Norte girls team that only had four losses, which is second only to those two teams in recent times, and you get the idea that statistically speaking this was truly a season for the ages.
It was also a season that saw the H-DNL claim a 30th North Coast Section crown in the sport, courtesy of the Crusaders, and a season that deserves recognition for several different reasons.
Here then is a look back at the season that was on the local basketball courts …
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
St. Bernard’s Girls
The Crusaders continued to set the standard for local programs by claiming a fourth NCS crown in five seasons.
The three senior captains were instrumental in the success and a perfect balance on a team that came prepared for the playoffs.
Just as importantly, they play the game with class.
Who else but the Huskies, who came out of the starting gates on fire and kept it up throughout much of the season.
They were fun to watch, and one of the most unselfish teams on the North Coast, electrifying their fans and community with a thrilling run.
GIRLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Kaleya Sanchez, Del Norte
The senior certainly left her mark on the program and will be remembered for setting many standards.
Not only is Sanchez the program’s all-time leading scorer and a MacDonald’s All-American, but she led the Warriors to a first-ever Big 5 title and a first-ever trip to an NCS championship.
Girls All-Stars — Jasa Sisemore and Emily Gardner (St. Bernard’s); Makaila Napoleon and Dorshaela Wesson (Eureka); Camrin Dolcini (Fortuna); Rayn Tripp (McKinleyville)
Three stand out above all others.
1 – St. Bernard’s winning an NCS crown.
2 – The Dick Niclai tournament.
3 – Every Fortuna boys playoff game.
Boys Coach of the Year
Tony Miles, Fortuna
Miles and his staff were instrumental in leading the Huskies to their historic season.
It’s one thing to have the talent they had, it’s another to put that talent in a position to succeed, and Miles and his staff did that and more.
Honorable Mentions — Blaine Lopez, Taylor Morrow and Tyler Mitchell.
Fortuna and Del Norte.
They were certainly the loudest, with an honorable mention for McKinleyville and Arcata.
The immediate future of local high school basketball appears to be in good hands, with a plethora of sensational sophomores stepping up their game this winter.
A group that includes South Fork’s Riley Gallagher, Del Norte’s Bella Stone and Jadence Clifton, Hoopa Valley’s Beyone Bussell, McKinleyville’s Cameron Heenan and Fortuna’s Fernando Atilano, among others.
Girls Coach of the Year
Mark Gardner, St. Bernard’s
Garder and assistant Dave Mather did an outstanding job getting the most out of their players this season and had them prepared for the playoffs.
The team’s success this year had as much to do with the coaching as it had to do with the three stellar senior captains.
Honorable Mentions — Michael Harvey, Tony McClure and Justin Clifton
BOYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
George Navarro, Hoopa Valley
No player on the North Coast instilled more fear in opponents than Navarro, who averaged right around 30 points all season long.
Like his team, Navarro was also fun to watch this winter, and he was the catalyst in the Warriors’ best season in a long time.
Boys All-Stars — Drew Gillette, Zac Claus, Bradley Willis and Donald Willis (Fortuna); Omar Banuelos and Ethan Price (Del Norte); Lane Thrap (St. Bernard’s); AJ Stubbs and Isaac Puzz (McKinleyville)
Three stand out above all others.
Hoopa at Pierce.
Panthers getting robbed of a home playoff game in the NCS.
Western Sierra refusing to travel to play St. Bernard’s.
Next Year’s Senior Stars
A host of players who have already established themselves in the H-DNL should be even better a year from now as seniors.
Players to look out for who will be leading the way in 2019/20 — Charlotte Carroll (Fortuna), Sophia Chalmers (Eureka), Lane Thrap (St. Bernard’s), Garrett Hall (Arcata), Omar Banuelos (Del Norte), and Rayn Tripp (McKinleyville)
The H-DNL is in good hands.
Teams To Keep An Eye On Next Year
You get the feeling it’s just the start of a dominating run for the Del Norte girls.
No doubt, they’ll miss Sanchez, but with three starting sophomores expected back, they will be the team to beat in the Big 5 for the next two seasons.
One team who will be hoping to compete with them is the McKinleyville girls, who are expected to return most of their players from a breakout season and should also be even stronger.