Basketball

A little rest pays off for Corsairs ahead of home opener

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Submitted photo – The Corsairs celebrate their recent championship win at the Mendocino tournament.

By Ray Hamill — The Corsairs have been a busy little bunch early in the season, playing more games than any other community college team in the state.

And because of that, head coach Ryan Bisio gave his players a six-day break over Thanksgiving, a rest that appears to have paid dividends with the players returning to practice this past weekend focused and re-energized, ahead of Thursday night’s home opener.

“We wanted to get a a little rest. I thought we were physically worn down,” said Bisio, whose team is preparing for Sierra College. “11 games in 24 days was pretty daunting. We’ve played the most games in the state.”

The Corsairs also quite probably have traveled more than any other team in the state, playing all 11 of their games at least 150 miles from home.

And that will make the home opener all the sweeter for this group of predominantly local-grown talent.

It’s also an occasion local basketball fans have been waiting for, with anticipation building around this year’s team since last March when six local high school all-stars committed to play.

All six have had an immediate impact with the team, including the Fortuna contingent of Zac Claus, Drew Gillette, Donald Willis and Bradley Willis, who each have started at least 10 games.

Former Arcata standout Thomas Nelson has also started all 11 games for the Corsairs and leads the way with a team-best 18.2 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.

The Corsairs have four players averaging double digits in scoring, including Gillette (14.5), Donald Willis (11.2) and Claus (10.1).

Donald Willis also is averaging 5.7 boards, while Claus is averaging 4.9 rebounds and 4 assists.

Early in the season, however, Bisio is still playing around with combinations.

“We do think we can play everybody,” the head coach said. “But sometimes games kind of dictate how minutes are distributed. But we feel confident in all our players.”

McKInleyville’s Isaac Puzz and Anthony Stubbs have each also seen big minutes off the bench, while Hoopa’s Blake Rossman has shown plenty of improvement recently, making his case for added court time.

“Blake Rossman had a huge contribution in the championship game at Mendocino,” Bisio said of the team’s most recent outing, an 81-78 win two weeks ago, when Rossman finished with eight points.

Thursday’s game is part of a three-day, five-team tournament, with the Corsairs also playing Southwestern Oregon on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Sierra comes into the game with a 2-5 record, although Bisio won’t be taking the Wolverines lightly.

“They’ve played a really tough schedule,” he said. “They have a little bit of everything. They have size, they have shooting, they have quickness.

“They’re balanced and they really attack the ball on both sides of the floor, especially on defense.”

Tip off is set for 7 p.m.

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