By Ray Hamill — It was a fun opening weekend in local high school basketball, with 17 of the 18 H-DNL varsity teams in action and five of them winning tournament championships.
And while the season is obviously still just getting warmed up, the first tournaments of what will be a very busy December gave us a glimpse into what we might expect to see in the coming months.
The St. Bernard’s girls had perhaps the most impressive showing of the weekend after knocking off three Big 5 opponents at the Arcata tournament, while the Arcata boys showed a lot of character in winning the McKinleyville tournament.
And they weren’t the only ones to impress.
Here then are some talking points from opening weekend of tournament season …
1 — Five champions
Five local varsity teams won a tournament championship over the weekend, an impressive showing for the H-DNL and an indication that much of the league is hitting the ground running this year.
The St. Bernard’s and Ferndale girls both won their opening tournaments at Arcata and Calistoga, respectively, while the Arcata boys won at McKinleyville, the St. Bernard’s boys won the Lake County tournament and the South Fork boys placed first at the Jolly Roger Classic in Point Arena.
The Eureka girls and Fortuna boys each also placed second at their tournaments.
Like we said, it’s still early, but that’s a nice start for those teams.
2 — The Eureka girls continue to impress
The Loggers placed second at the Placer tournament, posting lopsided victories over their first two opponents before falling to a quality Granite Bay team in the championship.
Two things in particular seem to stand out about this year’s Eureka team through the opening six games — the play of McKenna Beach and the incredible depth on this year’s roster.
And that’s only going to improve when sophomore transfer center Isis Poteet joins the Loggers later in the month.
3 — A good start for new coaches
Of the 18 local varsity teams, 12 feature new coaches this season and several of them enjoyed a good debut weekend with their new teams.
The most impressive showings by the new coaches included Arcata’s Kellen Maynard, St. Bernard’s Augie Valdez, South Fork’s Taylor Morrow and Ferndale’s Terra Albee, who all guided their teams to tournament championships.
4 — Del Norte defense
New coach, same mentality for the Del Norte boys this year.
Cris Rice has taken over as head coach of the team and he guided the Warriors to a solid 2-1 start at the Yreka tournament.
Rice and his players are eager to follow in the program’s tradition of playing strong defense, and that’s what they want their identity to be this year.
So far so good for a team that held two of its three opponents to under 40.
5 — Tanuvasa and Bento-Jackson will be tough to handle and fun to watch
Arcata’s Brandon Bento-Jackson and St. Bernard’s Lele Tanuvasa both began the new season in much the same fashion as they finished up last year, while leading their teams to tournament championships.
They’re only juniors, but both are already exceptional talents and among the best at what they do in the entire North Coast Section.
It’s going to be a fun season watching these two players continue to grow.
6 — This year’s Little 4 boys championship could be a dogfight
The St. Bernard’s, South Fork and Ferndale boys all impressed at their respective tournaments over the weekend and have started the season strong, while the Hoopa boys will only improve as they get all of their players back and face off against similar sized schools.
And that could make for a very competitive Little 4 this winter.
7 — Young Arcata girls playing beyond their years
They may have lost the championship game at their own tournament, but a young Arcata girls team has plenty to feel good about after their opening few games.
Led by Alia Prentiss, a lot of the younger players have stepped up early in the season and that’s a good sign for the Tigers moving forward.
Once again, head coach Doug Oliveira has his players as prepared as anyone.
8 — Has the student become the master?
The Arcata girls tournament championship game featured a great coaching matchup between Oliveira and Valdez.
Oliveira was Valdez’s head coach at Hoopa back when they won the school’s first NCS championship in 1993 and now both are opposing coaches in the H-DNL.
Valdez got the all-important win, but he admits he learned a lot about the game from his mentor.
It was also a very entertaining game between two similar fast-paced offenses that put up a lot of points early on.
These two teams play again in late January and that’s a game fans might want to check out.