By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY It doesn't get any easier for the Del Norte High girls varsity basketball team.
After playing its first 17 games on the road and compiling a 8-9 record, the Warriors host their first home game of the season tonight against Fortuna at 7:30 p.m.
This will be the first Big 5 Conference game of the season for Del Norte, who face a Fortuna squad considered one of the top teams in the Big 5.
The Huskies opened league play Tuesday night with a convincing 55-31 win against Eureka to improve to 12-2 for the season. Eureka dropped to 6-6.
The other league members consist of Arcata, who are 12-3, and McKinleyville, who stand at 10-5 after defeating Arcata 45- 33 Tuesday night.
Warrior head coach Buzz McCulloch said the league will be competitive this year and Del Norte needs to play its best ball if it wants to do well.
"I told the girls we've got to step it up," he said. "It's the Big 5. We need to play well."
A key is to play with more consistently, McCulloch said, saying there have been too many times this season when the team plays well one game and comes out totally flat the next contest.
A highlight this season was a last-second win against Hoopa on Jan 2.
Down by 10 with a little under three minutes remaining, Del Norte came back for the win with a three-pointer at the buzzer.
But they went 1-2 the same week at a tournament in Redding, including a 44-26 loss to Oroville. In that game, they went into a shooting slump and scored only two points in the second quarter and four points in the fourth quarter.
The lone win at the tournament came due to a forfeit by the other team, who left early because of the weather.
McCulloch said his girls have to make their open shots, especially in the paint, keep turnovers to a minimum and play aggressive defense for all four quarters.
McCulloch said Del Norte is considered at the bottom of the league as Big 5 starts play.
"We've got to work our way up and prove ourselves," he said.
Fortuna will present quite a challenge.
The Huskies will press the Warriors from the opening tip off and will look to run up and down the court and score quickly and often, McCulloch said
"They won't let up until their up by 20," he said.
The key is for Del Norte to remain calm, try to break the press, find the open shot and play together as an unit. On defense, they need to play tough and not give the Huskies easy looks at the basket, McCulloch said.
The freshman game begins play at 4:30 p.m. while the junior varsity game is set for 6 p.m.