By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY Playing in front of the home crowd for the first time this season, the Del Norte High varsity boys basketball team did not disappoint, downing Fortuna 57-48 on Tuesday in the Rotary Warrior Classic.
The win improves the Warriors to 4-0 for the season, with the squad winning its first three games at a tournament in Yreka last week.
Junior Cole Leslie led the team with 21 points, and made several plays that had the fans cheering.
He made five three-pointers, making two threes with only seconds left on the shot clock and tightly defended.
Senior Cliff Van Hook had 12 points, including two three- pointers, while junior Cody Hoffman had 11 points and five rebounds. Senior Saxon Schultz had nine points and four rebounds for the contest.
While pleased to gain the win and go undefeated so far in the early season, Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez emphasized that the team still has much to work on.
He felt the squad played with a lack of intensity and did not execute as well as they could have in the first half . He said they need to learn to play more under control.
But, he said, he understands they have had very little practice time together as an entire group because of the extended playoff run of the football team. Lopez and several team members who were involved with football were unable to practice until last Monday.
"We're learning on the run," he said. "We've got a long, long way to go until January," when the Big 5 Conference season officially starts.
Lopez commended Leslie for his play Tuesday night.
"He hit some big shots," he said.
While he struggled on offense and did not score, Lopez said senior Chad Freeman "played extremely well defensively," and "was a spark," for the team, especially in the second half.
Del Norte came out executing fairly well against Fortuna, a fellow member of the Big 5 and took a quick 10-3 lead. Up 14-5 with with 2:21 left in the first quarter, the Warriors went cold from the floor and Fortuna was able to cut the lead to 14-9 at the end of the quarter.
At the start of the second quarter, the Warriors got hot from the field again and jumped to a 21-12 lead on a three-pointer by Leslie with more than five minutes left on the clock. Again, Fortuna was able to race back into the game and trailed by only 28-21 at the half.
In the third period, Del Norte began to pull away, shooting the ball fairly well and playing solid defense. They were up 41-27 at the end of the period.
In the fourth, Del Norte increased the lead by as much as 18 before Fortuna cut the lead down to 10, although they never truly threatened Del Norte. This occurred when the Warriors took out all its starters and put in bench players, including several who have not seen much playing time so far this season. Fortuna kept their starters in the game.
With the Warriors by 12 with time running out, the Huskies hit a three-pointer near the end of the contest to cut the lead to 57-48. Fortuna fell to 2-5 for the year.
In the first game of the tournament, Brookings defeated McKinleyville of the Big 5, 61-53. So far this season, the only team Brookings has lost to is Del Norte, who defeated the Bruins in the championship game in Yreka on Saturday.
The Warrior Classic takes a day off today and continues on Thursday when the Warrior varsity team takes on St. Bernard's of Eureka at 7 p.m. at Thuenen Gym.
In junior varsity action, McKinleyville faces Brookings at 4 p.m. and Del Norte takes on Hidden Valley, Ore., at 5:30 p.m. at Thuenen.
At 7 p.m. St. Bernard's faces Redding Christian in the the small gym. At 8:30 p.m. the Warrior freshman team take on Hidden Valley at Thuenen Gym.