The Ferndale Wildcats played as if they knew exactly what was at stake on Saturday night, with a determination and focus from the opening tip off.
And because of that they overwhelmed the California School for the Deaf by a score of 60-42 to claim the North Coast Section Division-VI boys basketball championship.
“They were ready to play,” head coach Dan Albee said of his players. “It was a championship game, and they wanted it, and they got after them defensively.”
The Cats played tenacious defense and took control of the game early, opening up an 11-point lead after the first quarter and stretching the advantage to 20 by halftime.
After that there was no way back for the No. 2 seeds, not against a determined Wildcats team that featured many of the same players who lost an NCS decider in football in November.
This time they would not be denied.
Junior point guard Emmitt Albee led the way, finishing with a team-high 16 points and continuing to do a good job running the offense.
“Emmitt had a really good game for us, shooting and passing the basketball,” the head coach said.
Jenner Christiansen, who has played a pivotal role in Ferndale’s playoff run, added 12 points in the win, with Javier Lopez chipping in 10 points just three days after playing such an influential role in the semifinal win at St. Bernard’s.
Cody Sampson also had a big game, finishing with nine points.
The section championship is the first for the Wildcats since 2012 and the program’s fourth ever, and the first-year head coach is hoping the team can build on this success.
“I’m hoping that it carries on,” he said. “We want to create a winning environment and attitude at Ferndale for basketball.”
The No. 4 seed Cats won the section title the hard way, having to overcome the top two seeds in the bracket in back-to-back games on the road.
On Wednesday, they knocked off top seed and Little 4 rivals St. Bernard’s 46-45 in a thriller just to reach the championship game.
And they can thank their team defense which has been outstanding during the postseason, holding four playoff opponents to an average of just 41 points a game.
“Defensively we put a lot of pressure on the ball and were able to keep them from driving the basketball,” Dan Albee said of Saturday’s championship. “So they were having a really hard time scoring.”
Offensively, the Cats played composed, taking care of the ball and moving it around efficiently, while also shooting well from 3-point range.
The Cats’ four NCS titles moves them into a tie with St. Bernard’s and Hoopa for most ever by an H-DNL boys program.
Only the St. Bernard’s girls, with their five titles, have more.
It was the 31st NCS championship all-time for the H-DNL in basketball.
The Wildcats will now turn their attention towards next week’s NorCal tournament. They will finds out their seeding and opponent on Sunday.
The St. Bernard’s and South Fork boys have also qualified for the NorCals.