By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies showed just why they’ll be difficult to stop in the race for this year’s Big 5 on Thursday night, taking control of a tight game in the fourth quarter and holding on to beat Eureka 52-45 in girls basketball.
Playing in front of a large home crowd, the Huskies outscored the visitors 15-5 in the final period, thanks to some clutch free-throw shooting and their customary stellar defense.
“I told the girls to keep hanging in there,” said Fortuna head coach Scott Betts, whose team led by just one point with a minute remaining. “We were down for most of the game, and I told them at halftime if we keep playing hard until the last few minutes we were going to have a chance.”
And they did exactly that, overcoming a six-point second-half deficit and outscoring a good Eureka team 11-0 to close out the game.
The win was the 10th straight for the Huskies, who are now 2-0 in the Big 5 and 16-1 on the season.
The Huskies nailed 10-of-14 free throws in the fourth quarter in a game that saw both teams go to the line often.
“I think the free throws they made were huge,” Betts said of his players.
Particularly starting guards McKenzie Emmons and Gracie Betts, who each was 3-for-4 from the line in the fourth quarter of a very entertaining game and a showdown between the two league leaders that lived up to expectations.
“It was a really good game,” Eureka head coach Michael Harvey said.
Charlotte Carroll was a big difference maker for the Huskies, giving them a presence in the paint and keeping her team in touch at a crucial time of the game.
Carroll scored a team-high 14 points, half of them in the third quarter just as the Loggers were beginning to take control.
The visitors, however, created many of their own problems, most notably their poor free-throw shooting in the opening half and allowing the Huskies pull down some key offensive rebounds late in the game.
“There are things we can work on,” Harvey added. “I think they out-rebounded us and that was a difference maker. But we played hard.”
Eureka also struggled shooting the ball down the stretch, managing just two baskets in the fourth quarter.
There were, however, plenty of positives for the Loggers, most notably the play of Malia Guilbert and Bella Vigil .
Guilbert missed on some early free throws, but made her presence felt in the paint when the Loggers were in early foul trouble and fought hard for several baskets, finishing with 14 points.
Vigil was huge off the bench and the catalyst for her team’s third-quarter run, finishing with 14 points, including three second-half 3-pointers.
“Bella came in and gave us a spark off the bench,” Harvey said.
Betts added 13 points for the home team, including going 9-of-10 from the line, while Emmons was as industrious as ever, scoring 11 points, including some inspirational early baskets to keep her team in the game.
Moncerrat Bernal also gave the Huskies a lift off the bench, finishing with five points, while Morgan Murray had four points, Gabby Stephens three and Saige Grundman two.
Sophia Chalmers finished with nine points for the Loggers, leading the way early in the game, while Kellina Pratton did a good job distributing the ball and finished with four points.
Carly Boyton also had two points.
In JV action, the Fortuna girls won 52-47.