By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
The Del Norte High boys basketball team grabbed a crucial win in convincing fashion Wednesday evening on the road, downing McKinleyville 45-34.
The win means if the Warriors can defeat Big 5 Conference leader Eureka Friday night, they would be co-champions. Del Norte has a 5-2 Big 5 record and an overall mark of 15-9.
Head coach Blaine Lopez said if they win Friday, he was told a game would be played on Saturday at a location determined by a coin toss. The winner of that contest would have a first-round bye in the Dick Niclai postseason tournament, which pits the top teams from the Big 5 and Little 4.
Lopez was pleased how his team bounced back from a double overtime loss at home to Arcata last Friday.
"I think they wanted a chance to play for the title and now we have that opportunity," he said.
Early in the first quarter, a block by Bryce Lund on defense got the ball back to the Warriors. A moment later, Chad Freeman drained a 3-pointer to take a 6-0 lead. By the end of the quarter, Del Norte had a 15-4 advantage.
At the start of the second quarter, the Warriors continued to play aggressive on both ends of the floor, grabbing rebounds and making key shots.
The Panthers, on the other hand, struggled to make baskets, unable to get many baskets to fall in, or to stop Del Norte on defense.
The next few minutes, the Warriors could not get a basket in. The cold shooting streak was finally broken by Taylor Duncan, who nailed two free throws with 1:25 left to give Del Norte a 25-14 lead, as the Warriors took a 14-point lead into the locker room.
In the third quarter, the Warriors were able to maintain the lead, although both teams struggled to get points on the scoreboard.
The Warriors scored only four points for the quarter, while McKinleyville could only muster two points.
At the start of the fourth, Lund got the scoring going again, dropping in a three to give Del Norte a 35-15 lead.
A basket by Logan Lopez, gave the Warriors a commanding 39-20 advantage early in the fourth.
A 3-pointer by Nick Rasines reduced the lead to 43-29 with a little more than two minutes remaining, but the Warriors were able to keep a comfortable lead on the way to the win.
The scoring was fairly evenly distributed for Del Norte, with 12 players scoring at least a point.
Lund led the Warriors with nine points. Chad Freeman had eight and Andrew Fallman contributed six points.
In the first quarter, Saxon Schultz left the game with an injury, and Scott Redmond also left with an injury in the third.
Having the bench come through with points and defense was crucial, Lopez said.
Earlier in the evening, the Warrior freshman team came up with a 68-59 win in overtime. The junior varsity team fell to the Panthers 60-43