Fortuna’s Donald Willis gets past a pair of Liberty Ranch defenders during No. 7 Fortuna’s 85-77 win over No. 10 Liberty Ranch in the first-round of the NorCal playoffs, Tuesday night at Fortuna High. Willis led Fortuna in scoring with 23 points in the game. (Jose Quezada — For the Times Standard.
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The Willis twins, Bradley and Donald, combined for 43 points as the Huskies put to bed their North Coast Section title loss with a first-round NorCal win, holding off a comeback attempt by visiting No. 10 Liberty Ranch in the closing minutes of Tuesday night’s 85-77 victory.

No. 7 Fortuna (30-2) will continue its pursuit of a Division-III California Interscholastic Federation State Championship (NorCals) on Thursday when it hosts No. 15 Foothill.

Foothill (24-8), a Palo Cedro-based team, upset No. 2 Las Lomas (13-17) 62-57 Tuesday night to advance.

For the Huskies, Tuesday night’s win was about a return to form. Fortuna, after scoring a season-low 43 points in its section title loss to Branson on Saturday, exceeded its season scoring average on Tuesday with its 85-point performance. The Huskies were in control for the first three-and-a-half quarters of Tuesday’s win, maintaining a 10-point lead for the most part before Liberty Ranch came within a couple buckets of Fortuna in the final minutes thanks to more than a few Huskies turnovers down the stretch.

“I thought we played fairly well, especially for the first three-and-a-half quarters, but even after (Liberty Ranch) caught up and we lost a little momentum I thought we did a great job of staying calm and finishing out the win,” Fortuna head coach Tony Miles said. “It’s pretty clear teams are really doing their homework now before they play us and keying in on some things, but we got the win and we are moving on, and that’s all that matters.”

Donald Willis led the Huskies with 23 points, eight of which came in the first quarter and helped his Huskies hone a slim 17-15 lead. The Huskies took control in the second quarter, putting up 24 points as a team in the period as they outscored Liberty Ranch (29-5) by six in the frame to take a 41-33 lead into halftime. Zac Claus scored eight of his 12 points in the second quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers.

After an evenly played third quarter Drew Gillette emerged in the fourth to ensure a Huskies victory. The senior scored 10 points in the fourth, including two 3-pointers, to stave off a Liberty Ranch comeback and take his Huskies into the second round. Gillette finished with 21 points. Bradley Willis had 20 points for Fortuna in the win as well.

Liberty Ranch was led by Jalen Patterson, who had 25 points in the loss.

Hoopa Valley

The No. 9 Hoopa Vally boys’ basketball team took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s first-round NorCal playoff game at No. 8 Pierce, but couldn’t finish as it fell 79-75.

The loss ends the best overall year for Hoopa (21-10) since the 2013-14 season, when it posted 22 overall wins.

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