The Huskies found themselves in the unusual position of trailing for most of the game on Wednesday night, and had to battle a little harder than usual to pull out a 66-57 overtime win over Del Norte at Fortuna High in boys basketball.
The win gives the Huskies at least a share of this year’s Big 5 title, their second straight championship, and they can clinch it outright with a win in either of their final two games next week.
In other prep action on Wednesday, the Eureka boys blew the race for the third seed and a spot in this year’s Dick Niclai tournament wide open with a big 54-42 overtime win at Arcata, while the McKinleyville boys won their third straight game, 79-61 at South Fork.
Del Norte 57, Fortuna 66, OT
Some clutch shooting from the free-throw line late in the game helped the Huskies seal a come-from-behind win over their closest Big 5 rivals this season.
The win lifts the Huskies to 22-1 on the season and 6-0 in the Big 5, while Del Norte drops to 3-2 in the Big 5 and 13-5 overall.
A loss for the Warriors in any of their final three games, or a win for the Huskies in either of their final two games, will see Fortuna secure the championship outright.
They took a big step toward achieving just that on Wednesday, defeating their most dangerous conference challengers for the second time this season.
Donald Willis scored 24 points to lead the way offensively for the Huskies, who trailed by one at halftime and by four heading into the fourth quarter.
Free-throw shooting made the difference in the fourth quarter and overtime, with the home team nailing 14-of-15 in that time and the visitors just 5-of-13.
Willis played a big part in that, scoring 17 of his team-high tally in the second half, and going a perfect 10-for-10 at the free-throw line.
His twin brother Bradley Willis tied the game by nailing a pair of free throws with 30 seconds remaining in regulation, and the Huskies then stepped up defensively on the Warriors’ final possession, not allowing them to get off a clean shot.
Drew Gillette scored 15 points for the Huskies, while Bradley Willis finished with 10 points, and Zac Claus had nine points and 10 rebounds.
Omar Banuelos scored a game-high 24 points for the Warriors, who will try to rebound at home to Arcata on Friday.
The Huskies will play at Arcata next Wednesday.
McKinleyville 79, South Fork 61
The Panthers set themselves up for a crucial Big 5 stretch run with their third straight win on Wednesday night.
The McKinleyville boys started strong and opened up an eight-point lead heading into the second quarter, but the home team responded by tying game before halftime.
The third quarter, however, was the difference, and it belonged to the Panthers, who outscored the Cubs 26-9.
Thomas Locatelli led McKinleyville offensively with 17 points, including 15 in the second half.
AJ Stubbs added 12 points in the win, while Isaac Puzz finished with 11, Jake White 10 and Craig Peterson eight.
With the win, the Panthers improved to 10-10, while the Cubs dropped to 9-10.
Standout sophomore Riley Gallagher scored 20 points in the loss, including five 3-pointers, while teammate CJ Van Meter finished with 19 points.
McKinleyville hosts Eureka in a key Big 5 battle on Friday, while South Fork hosts St. Bernard’s in the Little 4 on the same night.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.