By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies are fast establishing an identity this season, and building a lot of momentum ahead of January’s Big 5 opener.
On Saturday they improved to 10-1, defeating host McKinleyville in the Lady Panther Classic championship game by a score of 47-39, and doing so with more stellar defense.
It was the second tournament championship this season for the Huskies, who came into the weekend as the No. 7 ranked Division-IV team in the state, according to MaxPreps.
And team defense has been key all season long.
On Saturday, the resilient Fortuna girls held the Panthers to just 10 points in the second and third quarters combined, before a late run saw the home team pull within two.
All in all, it was a hard-fought and exciting championship showdown, and a defensive game for the opening three quarters, before a high-scoring fourth.
“The girls basically continue to do what they’ve done all year,” Fortuna head coach Scott Betts said. “Playing really good defense.”
Morgan Murray continues to be instrumental for the Huskies and was named tourney MVP after an outstanding few days.
Charlotte Carroll also had a big couple of days, and was named all-tournament after finishing with 12 points in the tourney decider and continuing to make her presence felt in the paint.
McKenzie Emmons scored a game-high 14 points in the win, while the tenacious Gracie Betts added 11 points.
“The last two nights we’ve scored a few more points than normal,” the head coach said. “Some shots have started to fall, and we made a lot of free throws today.”
The Panthers closed out the tournament with two wins in three games, putting a frustrating start to the season behind them.
Kathryn Tinney had a big game in Saturday’s loss, coming off the bench to provide a big spark early and finishing with a team-high eight points.
Hailee Henry also had a big few days and was named all-tournament.
Victoria Claros finished with seven points on Saturday, while Rian Heenan and Cameron Heenan each had six points.
The Panthers, however, were sloppy in possession way too often, something they could not afford to do against a good defensive team like Fortuna.
“I think we didn’t have the energy I thought we would, but I thought we played tough,” head coach Tony McClure said. “I think defensively we executed things we wanted to do.
“We were really sloppy with the ball in the first half, but our defensive intensity was good.”
With the loss, the Panthers are now 3-7.