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Huskies end Natomas’ impressive rebound season

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 - 11:03 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 - 11:12 pm

Reality hit like a kick to the shins for an upstart basketball program that thought its days of being booted around the gym were over.

Fortuna High School, located in the northwestern corner of the state, made the five-hour trek from Humboldt County a memorable one Wednesday night and suddenly can’t wait to be road warriors again.

The Huskies of the North Coast Section ran a clinic of backdoor cuts, bounce passes down the lane, shooting and deny defense to overwhelm host Natomas 75-30 in a Northern California Regional Division IV opener.

Fortuna (26-3) headed back north, giddy with its showing, and will be back down to the Bay Area on Saturday to play Half Moon Bay in a second-round game. Natomas, meanwhile, heads back to the drawing board.

Four days after running Encina off the floor at Sleep Train Arena in cruising to the Sac-Joaquin Section championship, shooting 55 percent in scoring a 81-58 knockout, the Nighthawks (19-9) had no answer for Fortuna, a composed group of seniors.

Still, this was one of the section’s most remarkable turnarounds in recent memory, as Natomas went from a five-win mess a year ago to the playoffs under second-year coach Brian Hamilton.

“Definitely had a great year and this is definitely a first step,” Hamilton said. “I’m proud of these kids. We just lost to a really good team.”

A really good team that showed glimpses of championship form in December when it beat Franklin, a 20-win team, 68-56. Fortuna is anchored by three four-year starters. One of them is Nate Ambrosini, a 6-foot-4 guard/forward headed to Chico State. The captain had 31 points and 11 rebounds.

Daniel Teasley had 17 points and Justin Claus 10 for the Huskies, a playoff regular under coach Joe Rice. Freshman guard Mekhi Williams led Natomas with 14 points.

“To come off a performance against Encina to this is hard,” Natomas senior Jaylen Manning said. “It’s a learning experience. They played great. Even though we lost, we can proud of what we did.”

Pleasant Grove girls 45, McClymonds-Oakland 43 – Patricia Castrence hit a late three-pointer to give the Eagles the lead for good, and Brittany Nguyen iced it with a free throw in a D-I road opener. Kim Schmelz had 16 points for Pleasant Grove.

McClatchy girls 47, Gunn-San Jose 23 – Jordan Cruz scored 21 points and Lauren Nubla had five points, five steals and five assists for the Lions, who led 15-1 early in rolling to the D-I home opener. McClatchy played stifling defense, allowing one field goal in the first half.

Christian Brothers boys 60, Acalanes-Lafayette 46 – Joe Delgadio hit five three-pointers and had 17 points and Finn Whetstone had 12 points for the Falcons in D-III play.

Grant 65 boys, Chico 46 – Jordan Echols scored 22 points and Jeremee Churchill and Cameron Oliver had 14 each for the Pacers, who pulled away in the second half on the road in D-II play.

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his “Extra Point” every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson

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