Lose in Big 5 opener 59-40
The Del Norte Warriors hung tough most of the way but could not mount a comeback as they fell to the McKinleyville Panthers 59-40 at home in the team’s Big 5 Conference opener Friday night.
Senior Collin Taylor of Del Norte High makes a move to the basket against McKinleyville at home Friday night. Del Norte lost the Big 5 Conference opener 59-40 to drop to 4-8 for the year. For more photos, go to triplicate.com/photos.Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
With a young, inexperienced squad Del Norte was the underdog coming in against the Panthers, who are considered contenders for the league title this year.
The Warriors came out fired up in front of a good sized and responsive home crowd as they tied things up at 9-9 late in the first quarter.
The Warriors were kept in the game with tenacious defense, such as hustling for loose balls.
The problem was Del Norte is not typically a high scoring team this year and struggled to keep pace with the Panthers, who have shooters that can quickly put points on the board.
By the end of the first quarter Del Norte trailed 13-9.
Del Norte continued to hang with McKinleyville early in the second and cut the lead to 15-14 with more than five minutes left.
The Panthers slowly began to wear down the Warriors with a combination of inside shots and making baskets from three-point range as they led 32-22 at the half.
Things began to turn against the Warriors in the third quarter as a string of turnovers hurt Del Norte, and the Panthers took advantage by putting points on the board.
“When we turned it over it was massive for us,” head coach Blaine Lopez said.
With defense the Warriors specialty, but making shots consistently a problem, once the ball is turned over like that it puts a major dent in the team’s chances at a comeback, he said.
By 5:18 left in the quarter the Panthers had a comfortable 41-26 lead and had a 44-32 advantage by the end of the third quarter.
Sophomore Aaron Fitch of Del Norte puts up a shot up against McKinleyville. Fitch led the team with 13 points. Both the JV and freshman teams for Del Norte earned wins on Friday. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
The momentum shifted for good to the Panthers when they made a three-pointer just as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 3:47 remaining to give them a 52-36 advantage as they cruised to the 19-point victory.
Despite the loss, Lopez was pleased with the effort he saw from his young team made up of mainly sophomores and juniors.
“I think we played hard,” he said. “I was proud of the effort. McKinleyville is 9-4 for a reason. They are a good team.”
Sophomore Aaron Fitch had a strong effort and led the Warriors with 13 points. Colby Japp had eight points.
Parker Farris led the Panthers with 27 points. Del Norte fell to 4-8 for the year while McKinleyville improved to 9-4.
The Warriors junior varsity team had an excellent showing, defeating the Panthers 34-29 after losing to them in their first two meetings of the year. Sam Chrisler and Jordan Carpenter each had nine points. Brandon Japp had seven points all on free throws including a few crucial ones near the end of the game. The Warriors freshman team also had a strong showing and won 60-31.
Del Norte next plays on Wednesday against Eureka at home. The varsity contest begins at 7:30 p.m.