By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY Hot shooting, tenacious defense, all around hustle and energy and a loud and enthusiastic standing- room-only crowd full of screaming Warrior fans.
Tuesday night had all the ingredients for success for the Del Norte High boys basketball team.
The Warriors used all these things to their advantage, as they came away with the 54-46 win over Encinal High of Alameda in the first round of the North Coast Section Division III playoffs.
The victory was Del Norte's first NCS playoff win since 2002, when they went all the way and won the championship.
Besides small spurts, including a point where the Jets cut the lead to five in the fourth, Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez said he was quite pleased with his team's performance. At points he said it was the best he has seen them play all year.
"For the most part we played exceptional," he said. "It helps when you make shots. It makes everything easier. We just worked harder, I thought."
Leading the charge with a vengeance was senior extraordinaire Cliff Van Hook, who led the team with 23 points, 14 of them in the first half. He also drained five three-pointers.
He was also a tireless defender and had several key turnovers.
Junior Cody Hoffman was clutch on the boards, making several key grabs and contributed 14 points.
The entire teamfrom the starters to the benchhad a terrific game. The squad kept the Jets frustrated all night, as the Warriors brought their all-around play, from rebounds to diving for loose balls to great heights.
This included an excellent job on the boards. On both ends of the court, the Warriors always seemed to be where the ball was and were able to get a lot of second chance shot opportunities on offense.
"We're old school," Lopez said, "We play hard and do the little things."
The game started gangbusters for the Warriors, as Del Norte came out with great energy. The Jets had no answer for the Warriors tough defense and hustle on the boards. Encinal seemed out of sync and could not make a single basket until less than a minute left in the first.
By the end of the quarter the Warriors had a 8-4 lead.
The second quarter, after the Jets cut the lead to 15-13 with 3:13 left, Del Norte started to get a hot hand from the floor.
Starting the charge off the bench was senior Trevor Rook, who drained a three-pointer to get the lead up to 5. Then, the Warriors started to get going and by the end of the half had a 27-17 lead.
In the third quarter, Del Norte continued to frustrate Encinal with its all around hustle and solid play. At one point, the Warriors leapt to a 15-point lead. By the end of the third, Del Norte had a 43-32 lead and seemed on the cusp of a big NCS win.
But not so fast.
After all, this is the playoffs and there is a reason Encinal made the postseason.
In the fourth, the Jets took advantage of free throw chances and slashed the lead to five. For the game they went an exceptional 8-for-11.
The charity stripe was the only glaring weakness for the Warriors, who went only 3-for-13.
But after Del Norte received a technical foul with 2:24 remaining, the team seemed to band together, focused, and was able to hold onto the win.
Del Norte improves to 19-5 for the year, while the Jets dropped to 18-9.
The Warriors, the No. 8 seed, now has to travel to the Bay Area and face top seed Campolidno of Moraga Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Lopez said he believes his team deserved a higher seed and the chance to play its next game at home.
But, he added, his squad is ecstatic to still be in the playoffs and are prepared to head south and hopefully win.
"There's not much we can do (about traveling to the Bay Area), Lopez said. "We just got to go out and play hard."