Lady Cats top Warriors in thriller, tied for 1st place; HDN regular season down to final days

Mark Lourenzo

Beacon Correspondent

By the time this edition of the Beacon hits the streets, the HDN regular season will be down to the final games as the local teams vie for the available postseason berths. The Fortuna boys and girls basketball regular seasons are complete as the Huskies have a bye in what would have been their final nights (Thursday & Friday) of HDN play. The Ferndale teams meanwhile have one final evening and will attempt to end their regular season on a high note as the Wildcats host the South Fork Cubs for a basketball trifecta. The JV boys kick off this Friday evening at 4:00, with the varsity girls to follow and the Cubs and Cats varsity boys clash at 7:30. Much is at stake for both the boys and girls teams.

Last Friday evening, the Ferndale Lady Cats pulled off perhaps their biggest win of the season. Hosting the Hoopa Warriors with first place in league at stake, the Cats took a page out of the Warriors playbook and played an up-tempo, physical style of basketball. Ferndale even thrived on the challenge as the two teams streaked up and down the court and the Cats used a 13-0 run to build a 16-8 lead by the end of the first period. The opening minutes of the 2nd quarter continued a torrid pace and a Kendra Losa steal and fast break basket maintained a Wildcat lead at 20-12.

The Warriors also thrive on a frantic game pace and sure enough, Hoopa went on their own run, scoring eight straight point to tie the game at 20 apiece. Ferndale survived that onslaught and two buckets by Meagan Earley and a follow-up basket by cousin Sierra Earley carried the Cats to a 27-22 halftime lead. Meagan Earley again caught fire in the 3rd quarter and scored 8 of the next 12 points by Ferndale and by the end of the period the Cats enjoyed their biggest lead of the game at 41-31.

The 4th quarter brought out a sense of urgency by the Hoopa girls as they played even tighter defense and converted their offensive opportunities. By the 4:43 mark the Lady Warriors had a ten point run and tied the game at 41-41. Ferndale scored their first points of the quarter at the 4:05 mark as Meagan Earley pulled up for a medium range jumper. The game went back and forth from that point however, Hoopa's aggressive play got them in foul trouble and in the latter half of the period they lost starters Lillie Jarnaghan and Crissy Robbins to the fifth infraction.

Hoopa took the lead twice in the final minutes but twice Ferndale answered back as Losa, Earley and Maci Branstetter all came up with points with the game on the line and Hoopa came up empty on their two final possessions. Hoopa's desperation shot at the buzzer didn't even hit iron and Ferndale held on for the 52-49 win. Wildcat Meagan Earley led all scorers with her 22 points and Kendra Losa added a dozen to the effort. But the real value came from a total team effort by the Cats as each girl contributed to the game in some way.

Hoopa was led by Crissy Robbins and Jade Evans who each scored 11 points. The Warriors shot just 4 of 22 from three point land and 7 of 20 from the charity stripe. Regarding the fast paced game that the Wildcats brought forth one wondered if that was the game plan coming in, "We weren't really supposed to be doing that (matching Hoopa's up-tempo, physical game) but it just worked out for us," clarified Wildcat Meagan Earley. "We were rebounding better, going for loose balls and we didn't foul as much despite the physical play," furthered Earley.

With the win the Cats climbed into a tie for first place in the Little Four with the Warriors. With one final home game versus South Fork, a win by Ferndale would give them no worse than a tie for the league title. If Hoopa wins out at St. Bernard's then tie breakers would come into play to determine spots in the upcoming Niclai Tournament and later the North Coast Section seedings. The Cats and the Warriors could find themselves in another face off to break the tie at the top of the standings.

In other action the Fortuna Huskies girls varsity team scored a big win last Friday evening over Eureka as they played their final home game of the regular season. As the only senior on the team, it was fitting that Mellisa Morrison scored 18 points to lead the team to victory. The game was tied at the half 27 all, but the 3rd quarter proved decisive as the Huskies built a modest lead and made it hold up in the final quarter for the 54-49 victory. The win avenged a damaging league loss at Eureka back in January as the Huskies improved to 4-3 in league and sole possession of 2nd place in league with a game to go. That single game is a road trip to Del Norte after our deadline.

Speaking of deadlines, the Fortuna Huskies varsity boys earned a win over Del Norte in their regular season finale. Leading throughout, the Huskies disposed of the Warriors by a score of 49-35. It was a hard fought defensive battle typical of any game with the Del Norte team. The Huskies earned their margin of victory by holding the Warriors to just two points in the 2nd quarter and outscored Del Norte 3 of the 4 quarters. Max Betts (16 points) and Justin Claus (15 points) had to hit their outside shots as Del Norte doubled-down on Huskies Brady Shaha and Nate Ambrosini.

The Huskies are in good stead as the post season looms, Fortuna has won 6 of their last 7 games and can do no worse than #3 seed in the Niclai Tournament starting next Monday. If McKinleyville beats Eureka the end of this week the Panthers will host the Huskies on Monday. It has been eight years since the Huskies have earned a spot in the Niclai Tourney and their 17 wins this season is the most victories in several years for the varsity program.

The Ferndale Wildcats varsity boys came up short in their home contest versus the McKinleyville Panthers this just past Tuesday. Monet Hamor led the Cats with his 22 points, Hunter Van Emmerik canned 11 points and Chris Catana contributed 10 but the Cats were on the wrong side of a 56-55 score. It was the third straight loss for Ferndale after riding a 5 game win streak prior, so the Cats will have to find a way to build momentum for the postseason. Hosting South Fork in the regular season finale this Friday evening, a Wildcat win could give the team the boost it needs for the upcoming Niclai.

Junior Varsity action on both sides of the river

The Fortuna boys and girls junior varsity teams are closing out very successful campaigns. The JV boys won Tuesday evening over Del Norte by a score of 67-47. Daniel Teasley has come on hot at the end of this season and led the team with his 20 points. Ray Endicott and Coleton Betts each added 11 points to the win. The Huskies have just finished their season with a 24-2 overall record. Fortuna won conference with a 7-1 mark under head coach John Crotty. The Huskies were often led in scoring by Coleton Betts or Daniel Teasley but there was much more to the team as Kyle Franck was the top rebounder and Brett Renner proved to be the best defender.

The junior varsity girls program has also had a stellar season. The Lady Huskies sport a 20-1 record with one game remaining on the schedule. Most recent was the girls 50-40 win over Eureka, avenging the teams only loss this season. Brittany Carvalho led the team with her 20 points, Alexa Taylor scored 9 and Courtney Christensen added 7 points. Hannah Hagquist pulled down 9 all important rebounds in the game. It was a close game throughout as Fortuna held a slim four point lead at the half but the Huskies out scored the Loggers 11-2 in the 3rd quarter to give them the margin of victory. The team coached by Dennis Rosser will clinch the league title this week with a win at Del Norte, after our deadline.

The Ferndale junior varsity girls team is sure a great story. Under first year head coach Jamie Ellsmore, the Cats took their lumps early in the season as they played bigger schools most of the time. The team saw a lot of talent moved up to varsity but as the season progressed the Cats started to come on as a team. The result of their progress has been an unbeaten league mark of 6-0. Though South Fork did not field a JV girls team, the Cats have beaten Hoopa, St. Bernard's and Southern Trinity twice each. Most recent was last Friday's home win over Hoopa by a score of 37-21.

Ferndale center Michelle Regli led the team with her 10 points and 7 players put points on the board for the Cats. In their win over St. Bernard's, Wildcats Katrina Senestraro scored a season high 19 points and Nicole Vollmer added 13 in the Cats 46-31 win. Ferndale has just one game remaining, a non-league game at McKinleyville and this scrappy bunch will try to upset the Panthers on their home court.

The Ferndale JV boys saw their modest two game win streak end this past Tuesday evening as they lost to McKinleyville 58-33. Ferndale had recently logged wins over Hoopa (53-46) and Pt Arena (37-31), both of those victories came on the road. The Cats have just one more time to break into the win column under 2nd year head coach Tyson Fisher as this Friday they host South Fork in the season finale.

Huskies wrestling at home this Thursday

The Fortuna Huskies will host a pair of difficult opponents this Thursday evening when they take on HDN opponents Eureka and Hoopa. The team has just two seniors on the team as veteran Cole Collings is one of the team leaders and first year participant Allen Holland is learning fast. Sophomore Andrew Widdows is a wrestler to watch as he is doing very well this season. Filling the upper weight classes are Tyler Graham (187 pounds) and Ryan Erickson (195), both are having solid results this season. The HDN and NCS championships are just around the corner for these local athletes. The Huskies team is coached by Steve Schmalzel.

photo captions:

Photos by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

1. Ferndale's Kendra Losa splits a pair of Hoopa defenders on her way to a lay-up in last Friday's league game on the Lady Cats home court. Losa contributed 12 points, solid play on both ends of the court, and the Cats beat the Warriors at their own game as the physical, fast paced contest went down to the final seconds and Ferndale prevailed 52-49.

2. Ferndale's Meagan Earley shakes off a Hoopa defender with a drive to the key as the Lady Cats played host to the Warriors with first place at stake in the Little Four Conference. Earley canned a game high 22 points and the Cats pulled out a thrilling 52-49 win over Hoopa climbing into a tie at the top of the league standings going into the final week of the regular season.