By Ray Hamill — The strength of H-DNL girls basketball was on full display on Tuesday night, as nine local players featured in a matchup between College of the Redwoods and College of Marin.
And just about all of them are having a significant impact with their respective teams.
The host Corsairs have seven former H-DNL players on the roster this year, six of whom were on hand on Tuesday, and they rallied in the second half to beat the Mariners 66-58.
The Huskies were particularly well represented, and former teammates faced off against each other with five Fortuna graduates playing, including CR’s Gracie Betts, Ronee Norwood, Lily Shelton and Kendall Stewart, as well as Marin’s Isobel Crosswhite.
The game also featured a pair of former McKinleyville Panthers — Victoria Claros and Kayley Armstrong — each of whom started for the visitors, as well as Del Norte’s Molly Slayton and South Fork’s Natalie Roberts, who play for CR.
(Hoopa’s Nas-Che-Wen Hunsucker is also on the CR roster, but was not available on Tuesday.)
Betts has impressed for the Corsairs through the early part of the season and finished with a game-high 18 points, while teammates Rachel Valdez and Lilianna Hoban finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
The Corsairs, who improved to 2-5, were sluggish at times early on in what was their home opener and a game played in front of a good sized crowd.
But they stepped up their game after the break to overcome a one-point half-time deficit and shot well from 3-point range on their way to the victory.
“At halftime, I pretty much told them that Marin wasn’t hurting us, we were hurting ourselves,” CR head coach Jain Tuey said. “And I told them we needed to pick up our energy and play harder and want it more, and in the second half they came out with a little more energy.”
Betts was particularly impressive.
“I thought that Gracie just played a good overall game,” the head coach. “Energy wise, she was there.”
Aulani Leomiti scored a team-high 15 points for Marin, while Claros added nine points and seven rebounds, and Crosswhite had eight points and a team-high 12 boards.
Armstrong added two points, two boards and a steal, and all three former H-DNL players have played a key role in leading the Mariners to an impressive 5-3 start.
“I’m lucky to have all three of them,” head coach Emily Schaefer said.
Claros, who is in her second year with the team, has been leading by example and has been a dangerous 3-point threat for the Mariners, nailing 45 percent of her attempts.
“She’s just one of those people who wants to win and has that winning mentality.”
Armstrong also is in her second season with the team and has been a force in the paint.
“That step through move she has is unstoppable,” Schaefer said. “And she’s just so consistent. She’s a player we can always count on. She’s cut from the same cloth as Victoria, she competes and she’s driven.”
Crosswhite joined the team this year and leads the Mariners in rebounds with 9.6 a game.
“She’s one of our strongest players and one of our hardest workers,” the head coach said. “She’s an incredible teammate and a super intelligent student.”
Schaefer believes this year’s Marin team has the depth to challenge for a Bay Valley Conference championship.
“Absolutely,” she said. “The best part for me is we have a very balanced team. We have a variety of players who could potentially have double-digit scoring games any night.
“We’re good in the paint, we can shoot 3s, we have a lot of weapons we can use.”
The Corsairs, meanwhile, are finding their feet after their 0-4 start and have now won two of their past three games.
They also have been competitive and in contention in all but two of their seven games.
“I think their confidence is growing individually and as a group,” Tuey said. “We have a lot of pieces, it’s just a matter of us putting it together and being consistent offensively and defensively.”
Next up, the Corsairs will play San Mateo at the Shasta tournament on Thursday of next week (Dec.1).
Marin plays at Los Positas on Tuesday.