By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s boys are hoping to join an elite group of H-DNL basketball teams this weekend when they play a NorCal Division-VI semifinal at Redding Christian.
A win for the Crusaders would make them just the 15th H-DNL team to ever qualify for a NorCal championship game, with the most recent being the SB girls back in 2019.
Only four of those previous 14 H-DNL teams managed to win a NorCal title, showing just how difficult it gets at this stage of the season and the rarified air the Crusaders are approaching.
The good news is the St. Bernard’s boys would appear to have every chance of qualifying for next week’s decider and are playing their best basketball of the season at a very good time.
After winning the Division-6 North Coast Section championship with a come-from-behind win over Valley Christian last weekend, St. Bernard’s followed that with a comprehensive 88-47 win over Elliot Christian in the NorCal quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The Crusaders did win a NorCal title under previous head coach Steve Thrap in 2016, joining the 2000 Hoopa Warriors as the only two H-DNL boys teams to ever win a championship at that level.
Nine H-DNL girls teams have reached a NorCal championship game over the years, with a collective record of 2-7.
The St. Bernard’s girls won back-to-back NorCal championships under former head coach Matt Tomlin in 2015 and 2016, giving the school an extremely rare NorCal boys and girls double in 2016.
The Arcata girls also recently qualified for a NorCal Division-IV championship game in 2014 under former head coach Dusty Scofield.
The McKinleyville girls have made three trips to the NorCal championship games, most recently in Division IV in 2010.
They also qualified in Division II in 1985 and in Division III in 1987.
The Eureka girls also qualified for a NorCal decider in Division II in 1989, as did the South Fork girls in Division V in 1995.
Hoopa, meanwhile, became the first H-DNL boys team to qualify for a NorCal championship game in the 1990s, losing finals in 1992 and 1999 before eventually winning a Division-V NorCal title in 2000 and becoming the only ever H-DNL team to advance to a state championship in the sport.
(St. Bernard’s three NorCal championships — two girls and one boys — have all come in Division VI, a division that was established in 2015 and does not feature a state championship.)
The St. Bernard’s boys also made it to the NorCal decider in 1996 in Division V, losing to St. Elizabeth.
Arcata is the only other H-DNL boys team to ever reach a NorCal championship game, losing to Hillsdale out of San Mateo in the 1997 D-III decider.
Arcata and St. Bernard’s are the only two H-DNL schools to have qualified for both a boys and girls NorCal championship game.