By Ray Hamill — With two weeks remaining in the regular season, three of the four H-DNL basketball conference championships appear set to go down to the wire.
The St. Bernard’s girls clinched at least a share of their seventh straight Little 4 with a comfortable win at Hoopa on Friday night, and the Crusaders, who have not lost a conference game since 2014, will likely secure the championship outright when they host Ferndale on Friday.
The other three conference championships, however, are far from decided, with the race for the Big 5 girls title the most intriguing of all.
Big 5 frontrunners
The Fortuna girls lead the way and are 4-1 with three games remaining, with Eureka (3-2) and Arcata (2-2) right on their heels and still well in contention.
All three will play each other over the final two weeks in three games that will decide the fate of the championship.
The biggest local showdown of the year (so far) will take place at Eureka on Wednesday when the Loggers play the Huskies with the conference lead on the line.
Matchups between Eureka and Arcata on Friday and Arcata and Fortuna the following week will also go a long way towards deciding this year’s title, while Del Norte could yet make it a four-way battle for the championship if they continue to play as well as they did at Eureka earlier this week and some other results go their way.
All in all, it should be a fascinating battle the remainder of the way, not just for the title but also for a coveted place in this year’s Dick Niclai tournament.
And if the Big 5 has shown us anything so far this year, it’s that anyone can beat anyone on any given night.
The Big 5 boys championship appears to be a two-horse race at this stage, with frontrunners Del Norte (5-0) holding a slight advantage over Arcata (3-1).
The two teams meet at Arcata in what could be a championship-deciding battle on February 4, although both teams will need to continue to take care of business before that.
This week, Arcata plays at McKinleyville on Tuesday and at Eureka on Thursday, a pair of tough propositions for the Tigers, while Del Norte has a bye from league play on Tuesday before hosting Fortuna on Thursday.
The Warriors could be playing for at least a share of the title in that game, if Arcata loses either or both of its games this week.
The Little 4 could also go down to the final day of action (February 7), when league leaders St. Bernard’s (4-0) head to South Fork (2-1).
The Cubs have beaten Ferndale twice in league play and will likely need to sweep a pair of games from Hoopa between now and then to keep themselves in contention.
The Crusaders have won seven straight games and appear to be growing in stature with each league game. They can clinch at least a share of the L4 championship with a win at Ferndale on Thursday night.