Just in case there was any doubt as to which of the Humboldt-Del Norte League teams was the cream of the crop at the end of the dual meet portion of the 2019-20 season, the Del Norte wrestling team erased it and then some with its performance at Saturday’s Humboldt-Del Norte League championship meet hosted by Arcata High School.
The Warrior boys and girls squads each sent 10 wrestlers into the championship matches of their respective weight classes Saturday, with each side walking away with six championships and coveted White Stars. The Warrior boys won the team event going away, scoring 202 team points, while the Warrior girls squad, in just its second year of existence finished a mere 17 points behind the traditional local powerhouse Eureka Loggers with 158 team points
On the boys’ side, Blake Allen (126 pounds), Tanner Stancliff (170 pounds), Brandon Jones (195 pounds), Keadon Henderson (220 pounds), Chaz Harrison (132 pounds) and Skyler Moore (145 pounds) each went unbeaten on the day, with Moore also earning the outstanding wrestler award. Bobby Aflague (113 pounds), Walker Gensaw (152 pounds), Kurtis Turner (160 pounds) and Nolan Ridgley (138 pounds) each placed second in their respective weight classes. Mike Weiland (182 pounds) and Davian Afdahl (285 pounds) both finished third in their brackets, while Micah Malfavon (120 pounds and Aaron Park (106 pounds) placed fourth in their weight classes.
On the girls’ side, Adenne Schaad (137 pound bracket), Emily Ricks (126 pound bracket), Danika Scott (235 pound bracket), Savannah Williams (106 pound bracket), Emilia Thompson (101 pound bracket), and Avary Wiley (111 pound bracket) each earned White Stars by finishing atop their individual brackets. Jenny Schaad , Esuna Thor, Claire Taylor and Arelli Proctor reached the finals of their brackets and placed second overall, while Daisy Frias placed third in her bracket.
Although the H-DN portion of the schedule is now officially over, the season is far from finished. The Warriors boys will now head south to compete in the North Coast Section championship tournament beginning Friday, February 21 in at James Logan High School in Union City, California. The Warrior girls travel to Albany High School, also beginning Friday, February 21.
After earning a bye in the opening round of the Dick Niclai Postseason Tournament by virtue of having won a Big Five Conference regular season title, the Del Norte boys’ varsity basketball returned to the Thunen Gymnasium court and defeated the Ferndale Wildcats 54-31 Wednesday evening.
With the victory, the Warriors advance to the Dick Niclai Tournament championship game, where they will face the Arcata Tigers Friday evening in a game to be played at Lumberjack Arena on the campus of Humboldt State University in what will be the third meeting of the season between the two schools. Tip-off for Friday’s contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors wasted little time getting going against the Wildcats, using a 16-1 first quarter run to ultimately take a 22-7 lead after one quarter. The home team connected on nine of its 11 shots from the floor in the first eight minutes of action, while the Wildcats managed just a two-of-seven clip and committed six turnovers.
The Wildcats didn’t roll over and go away though, as the visiting team began chipping away at its deficit in the early stages of the second quarter, cutting the lead down to 26-16 before the Warriors once again stepped on the proverbial gas pedal and put a virtual end to any thoughts of a complete comeback from the visiting team. The end result was a Warrior 15-0 run to close the half, as the home team took a commanding 41-16 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Kaleb Price scored 10 of his game-high 13 points in the opening half to lead three Warriors in double figures on the night. Omar Banuelos scored all 11 of his points in the first half, including three 3-point field goals, while Damian Dowd added his own 10 points in the first two quarters.
With the home team well in control at the halftime break, the Warrior coaching staff emptied its bench to begin the second half and allowed the second unit to get some game experience and valuable minutes with little to zero pressure on them.
Although the Warriors defensive focus and intensity did not falter one iota, the home team held the Wildcats to just four points on one-of-12 shooting from the field in the third quarter, the Warrior offense that had been so precise and so on fire throughout the first two quarters suddenly couldn’t find itself in the third frame. The Warriors shot just two-of-12 from the floor in the third quarter themselves.
All told the two teams combined for exactly nine points in the third quarter, but yet the Warriors were able to increase their lead to 46-20 heading into the final period.
Things didn’t get much cleaner or efficient for either team in the final quarter, as just 19 points were scored by the two teams. Virtually everyone who saw action found the scoring column for the Warriors in the victory, with Edwin Zepeda scoring six fourth quarter points to lead the reserves offensively.
After running the table in claiming the program’s first outright Big Five Conference title since 2010, the Del Norte varsity boys’ basketball team added another accolade to an already impressive 2019-20 resume, coasting to a 46-35 victory over the Arcata Tigers in the championship game of the Dick Niclai Tournament Friday evening at Lumberjack Arena on the campus of Humboldt State University.
“All of the credit goes to the players,” first year varsity head coach Marc Slayton said after the game. “We played smart basketball, and were fabulous at the defensive end.”
Although the Warriors had won the previous two meetings against the Tigers during the conference season, as the adage in team sports goes, it’s difficult to beat the same team three times in one season.
With that in mind, and knowing it had taken an Omar Banuelos 3-point field goal in the final seconds followed by a near half-court shot that narrowly missed giving the Tigers a buzzer-beating victory in the previous matchup between the two schools, the Warriors wasted little time in setting the tone for Friday’s contest.
“We probably played our best first quarter of the season tonight,” Slayton said after watching his team take an 18-9 lead at the end of the eight minute period.
Things got a little interesting in the second stanza though, as the Warriors suddenly couldn’t find the bottom of the net offensively and had their lead virtually cut in half by intermission, with Del Norte holding on to a 21-6 lead advantage at the break.
Realizing things had gotten perhaps a little too close for comfort, the Warriors wasted zero time in rebuilding a cushion, ratcheting up an intensity level at the defensive end that had only allowed the Tigers nine and seven points respectively in the first half as it was. In addition to holding the Tigers offense in check, the Warrior offense began clicking again as well.
That was the beginning of the march toward the championship trophy, as the Warriors outscored the Tigers 17-6 in the third period to take a commanding 38-22 lead into the final quarter and virtually salting things away in the process.
“For whatever reason we were a little out of sync in the second quarter, but we came out with great effort and intensity in the third,” Slayton said. “One of our goals tonight was to make all the hustle plays and win the 50-50 balls, and we were able to do that tonight.”
Omar Banuelos led the Warriors with a game-high 19 points, 10 of those coming in what turned out to be a game-deciding third quarter. Damian Dowd scored eight points of his own, but it was what won’t necessarily show up in the boxscore that told the true story of the senior point guard’s impact on Friday’s victory, as the Dowd held Arcata’s freshman phenom Brandon Bento-Jackson scoreless on the night.
Despite having secured both a regular season championship and now a Niclai tournament title, the Warriors are by no means finished, as they now turn their attention to the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs which begin next week. The who, what and where will be determined Sunday when the brackets and matchups are released by the section seeding committee.
“Winning the Niclai Tournament is special, but it’s all about the next one” Slayton said. “Hopefully we’ve done enough to have earned ourselves a top four seed in the section playoffs.”
The Del Norte boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball teams both earned berths into the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs. The Warrior boys, winners of both the Big Five Conference and Dick Niclai postseason tournament, earned a #5 seed and will play host to the #12 seed Middletown Mustangs Wednesday evening at Thunen Gymnasium with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on KPOD and delnortesports.com beginning with pregame show at 6:50 p.m. The Warrior girls received a #15 seed and will travel to Vallejo where they will face #2 seed St Patrick-St Vincent. That game will also take place Wednesday evening, with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.