By Ray Hamill — This year’s Big 5 in girls basketball is shaping up to be quite a battle, and heading into the Christmas break all five teams will probably feel they have a legitimate shot at winning it all.
Leading the way are the Fortuna Huskies, who are 10-1 after Saturday’s Lady Panther Classic championship win, their second tournament title this month.
Fortuna defeated McKinleyville 47-39 for the championship.
The Huskies are a defensive force and appear to be building some momentum at the other end of the court too, which should make them a very dangerous proposition going forward.
They are currently ranked No. 7 in the state among Division-IV teams, according to MaxPreps, and No. 16 overall in the North Coast Section, the highest ranked of all H-DNL teams.
Check out some of the championship game highlights from Saturday here.
The Huskies avoided a matchup with Eureka this weekend after the Loggers came out flat in their tourney opener on Thursday, but don’t expect there to be a whole lot between these two rivals when league play rolls around.
The Loggers have played mostly out-of-area tournaments in December, and have mostly impressed, although they have looked a little flat at times, and one bad game in such a tight league could end up proving costly for anyone.
On Friday they posted an overtime win over a very good St. Bernard’s team that is ranked well above them in NCS and state rankings.
Expect the Loggers to be ready to go when conference play opens next month.
Likewise with the McKinleyville girls, who despite losing Saturday’s championship game to the Huskies, showed they can play with anyone in the Big 5.
Again, consistency remains a goal for the Panthers (3-7), as it does for many teams this time of the year, and they’ll need it if they are to challenge the Huskies when they meet again in a couple of weeks.
One thing the Panthers have shown is that they can compete, with their seven losses coming by an average of just 4.2 points.
Del Norte too has impressed early, as you would expect from the defending league champion.
The Warriors are 8-3, but two of their losses have come against a very good Hidden Valley team, and they will be many people’s favorites when the Big 5 opens.
Junior guard Jadence Clifton will also be a handful for any opponent this season and is off to a sensational start.
Arcata, meanwhile, played at the Red Bluff Holiday Classic this weekend and has also impressed early in the season with a 6-4 record.
The Tigers did lose to Fortuna last weekend at the Healdsburg tournament, falling by a score of 38-31.