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The St. Helena boys basketball team suffered its first loss of the season on Friday night, falling 73-39 to visiting Fortuna High in the semifinals of the annual Sutter Home Invitational Tournament at St. Helena High School.

The game was never in doubt. The Huskies led throughout the contest, holding a commanding 24-2 lead after the first quarter. Fortuna, which was led by Drew Gillette with a game-high 23 points, increased its advantage to 40-12 at halftime and 58-24 after three quarters.

With the loss, St. Helena will play in the third-place game at 5 p.m. on Saturday against Roseland University Prep (2-1) while Fortuna advances to the Championship game against Healdsburg (2-1) at 6:30 p.m.

Point guard Jonathan Gamble was the lone Saints’ player in double figures with 10 points. Nick Jeworowski scored eight points, Caleb Granados scored six points, Cristian Iano scored four points, and Caleb Jeske had three points. The quartet of George Cutting, Jake Mendes, Jawad Muhammad and Fawad Muhammad scored two points apiece.

Following the game, Saints’ first-year head coach Jim Gamble was very succinct when asked about his message to the team in the locker room following the contest.

“I shared with them, I thought this game was a blessing in disguise, because those kids [on Fortuna]” came out, they are very skilled basketball players,” Gamble explained. “They are strong basketball players and just a beautifully coached basketball team.”

Gamble added he and assistant coach Michael Roche also used their postgame discussion with the team to reinforce a concept and a mindset they have been trying to get the players to embrace since the very first day of practice.

“We talked a lot about buying into the system,” Gamble said. “After a couple blowout wins early in the season, it is so important to have a game like that because it really wakes the kids up and they see what they need to do to compete at the next level.”

The coach cited his team’s ability to sustain a maximum of effort throughout an entire game as one of the essential ingredients necessary if it hopes to enjoy success this season.

“We can’t have any lapses in effort,” Gamble explained. “I thought we came out in the first half (Friday night) without playing maximum effort and that is our key. We’re not very big and so we have to play with full and maximum effort every single play, every single possession and when we take a play or two off… it affects the entire team.”

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