By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY Coming out against McKinleyville, considered one of the best teams in the Big 5 Conference, the Del Norte High girls varsity basketball team showed no fear Thursday evening at home.
Diving for loose balls, battling for rebounds, hitting free throws and key shots, and playing with a lot of energy and confidence, the Warriors quickly leapt to an 8-2 lead. But the Panthers came back to take a 16-14 first quarter lead.
Del Norte was able to stay in the contest. Down 20-16 in the second quarter, sophomore Lauryn Lesina drained a three-pointer to cut the lead to one. A short time later senior Baille McCulloch raced down the court and scored a bucket to give the Warriors a 21-20 lead. But the Panthers were able to expand their lead.
By the end of the half Del Norte trailed by only nine and were in the ball game.
But the Panthers showed that they were for real in the second half as they raced to the 66-42 victory to improve to 13-5 overall and 3-0 in the Big 5. On Tuesday the Panthers trounced Eureka 70-30. Del Norte fell to 8-12 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
"If we had played the last three quarters like we did in the first it would have been a heck of a different game," Del Norte head coach Buzz McCulloch said.
In the third quarter, the Warriors went cold from the floor and did not score until 1:40 left in the quarter after junior Krista Haban hit two free throw to cut the lead to 49-30.
"We came out flat," McCulloch said about the second half. "We have to play the whole 32 minutes."
Lesina led Del Norte scorers with 16 points, 13 of which came in the first half. She made 3 three-pointers. She went 7-for -8 from the free throw line. The team as a whole went a respectable 14-for-20 from the free throw line.
Baille McCulloch and Michelle Stacey each had five points for Del Norte.
The Warriors next play on Wednesday at Eureka. On Friday, they play at home against Little 4 Conference member St. Bernard's.