The second season has officially begun in Del Norte Warrior athletics, as both the boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball teams, as well as the Warrior wrestling team took to the hardwood and mat respectively this week in hopes of continuing the momentum all three teams had developed throughout the two month Big Five Conference and Humboldt-Del Norte League season.
After receiving a No. 1 seed and opening round bye in the Dick Niclai postseason tournament by virtue of being the outright Big Five Conference champion for the first time in program history, the Del Norte girls’ varsity basketball team took to the court for the first time in five days and wasted little time in disposing of the Little Four Conference’s Hoopa Valley Warriors by a score of 63-21 Wednesday evening at Thunen Gymnasium. That victory, coupled with the Eureka Loggers 58-35 dismantling of the St Bernard’s Crusaders in Wednesday’s other semifinal game, means a third matchup between Del Norte and Eureka in the space of three weeks. That contest will take place Friday evening at Lumberjack Arena on the campus of Humboldt State University and will determine the Dick Niclai postseason tournament champion. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Wednesday’s contest against Hoopa Valley featured a bit of everything, including a seldom used starting lineup to open the contest as the quintet of Aleesha and Ashley Lenover, along with Maykayla Jackson, Shelby Horner and Kaleya Sanchez took the court for the opening tip-off. After Hoopa Valley connected for a 3-point goal and pulled down several rebounds in the span of 90 seconds, the home team went back to its more familiar lineup and the rout was on.
With the customary lineup of sophomore guards Bella Stone, Jadence Clifton and Kirsten Brous, to go along with junior Selene Ledezma and the senior Sanchez at the wing positions, the home team got into a rhythm on both ends of the court rather quickly, turning an early 3-0 deficit into a 16-7 lead in the space of barely five minutes of the first quarter. From there it was simply a matter of one side having more athletic depth than the other and more figurative weapons in its figurative arsenal, as the home team took complete control and never looked back. Following the opening 3-point field goal from Hoopa Valley, the home team proceeded to go on a 45-10 run over an 18-minute period stretching into the late third quarter, eventually taking a a 51-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
How lopsided was the outcome of the game in reality? Del Norte’s Sanchez, who led all scorers with a game-high 23 points, outscored Hoopa Valley 23-21 on the night. Stone flirted with a rare triple-double herself, scoring 14 points, including three 3-point field goals, while dishing out a number of assists and snaring nearly double figure rebounds, most of which began a fast break at the offensive end of the court. A total of eight players found their way into the scoring column, while all 13 players that suited up found their way onto the team statistics sheet in one way or another. The only blemishes on an otherwise basically nondescript but workmanlike evening, was the home team’s woeful seven-of-17 shooting night from the not so charitable stripe to go along with 12 total turnovers on the night.
Following the Del Norte girls’ varsity basketball team’s 63-21 over Hoopa Valley at Thunen Gymnasium in the semifinals of the Dick Niclai Tournament just 24 hours earlier, the Del Norte boys’ varsity basketball team was looking to match their female counterparts with a semifinal victory of their own over Hoopa Valley Thursday evening at Hoopa Valley High School.
The Warriors did just that, jumping out to a comfortable lead early and holding on down the stretch for a 62-51 victory. Del Norte picked up right where it left off in a 76-47 thrashing of the McKinleyville Panthers at Thunen Gymnasium two nights earlier, exploding offensively early and complementing that with suffocating defense, preventing the prolific scoring Hoopa offense from getting anything going. After two quarters of play, Del Norte led by a seemingly comfortable 39-18 margin and appeared to be well on the way to advancing to a postseason championship game for the first time in over a decade.
After stretching the advantage to as many as 25 in the second half though, it was the home team Warriors that proved once again that their reputation for high-octane offense and pressure defense producing turnovers and subsequent conversions in transition didn’t come by accident. What began as a mini-run that began midway into the third quarter ultimately and eventually turned into a full-blown rally in the closing minutes of the third period and into the final quarter. When all was said and done, the home team had cut the deficit to a tenuous 10 points, and it suddenly became game on as the momentum had switched seemingly out of nowhere, and it was now the home team and home crowd that was feeding off that sudden change.
The home team would come no closer than that 10 point margin for the remainder of the evening though, as the visiting team once again turned to its depth and familiar cast of characters to keep the margin at double-digits and eventually secure Del Norte’s victory. Omar Banuelos led three Del Norte Warriors in double figures with a team-high 15 points, while Nolan O’Kelly and Judah Robinson added 12 and 10 points respectively. Ethan Price nearly joined his trio of teammates with double figures in the scoring column, as the senior and recent Western Oregon University signee chipped in with nine points.
Fresh off its completion of an unbeaten Humboldt-Del Norte League regular season just days earlier, the Del Norte wrestling team traveled to Eureka Saturday to compete in the North Coast Section Division II Redwood Empire dual championships hosted by Eureka High School. The Warriors came into the eight-team bracket seeded third overall, and made the most of the respect garnered by the seeding committee. The Warriors opened their day of competition with an emphatic 54-30 victory over the #6 seed Redwood Giants of Larkspur, representing the Marin County Athletic League. The Warriors then advanced to the championship match with a 47-30 victory over #2 seed Petaluma High School of the Vine Valley Athletic League. It was in that title match that the Warriors ran into a familiar buzzsaw in the form of top-seed Ukiah High School of the North Bay League, where the Warriors dropped a 50-30 outcome.
Although the dual match portion of the season is now complete, the Warriors still have plenty of work to do over the next two weeks, beginning Saturday, February 9, when the Warriors travel back to Eureka to compete in the Humboldt-Del Norte League championships at Eureka High School.
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