By Ray Hamill — If this year’s crop of freshmen standouts is any indication, the future of local high school basketball appears to be in pretty good hands.
For both the boys and the girls.
Most notably for the boys, Arcata freshman point guard Brandon Bento-Jackson had an outstanding debut season playing for the Tigers, who pushed Del Norte all the way in both the Big 5 and Dick Niclai tournament.
And he wasn’t alone.
Bento-Jackson’s former middle school teammate Jack Clancy had quite an impact at McKinleyville, where he provided arguably the highlight of the season, nailing a half-court buzzer-beater to close out a brilliant comeback at Fortuna.
Not be out-done, Eureka freshman Claire Maples played a big part in another thrilling finish, helping the Eureka girls to a dramatic comeback in the Dick Niclai championship game to cap a strong debut season for the Loggers.
Leading the way for the freshmen girls was undoubtedly Saulele Tanuvasa, who announced herself on the high school stage with a Little 4 MVP season for St. Bernard’s.
Tanuvasa is special and a player who is going to have a huge impact on local high school basketball and well beyond.
She was also MVP of the Little 4 in volleyball.
Several other newcomers also had an immediate impact at the high school level.
At Arcata, Olivia Railsback was outstanding for much of the season, as was Owen Shanahan for the St. Bernard’s boys.
Each of them grew in stature as the season progressed and should play a major role in leading their respective teams in the coming years.
Likewise with McKinleyville’s Trinity Preston, Del Norte’s Gianna Taylor and Lily Wilson, and South Fork’s Summer Contreras and Macy Yarbrough, all of whom provided valuable minutes for their respective teams.
And rounding out a group of freshmen who had a big debut campaign was Eureka’s Caden Vance, who closed out the year with his best performance of the season, which augurs well for next year.