Trailing 66-65 with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter to Eagle Point (Ore.), the Del Norte High girls basketball team had numerous opportunities to take back the game.
Brittany Maready and Taylor Cleland both missed three-pointers. Regin Loftin missed the first free throw in a one-and-one situation. Maready traveled with 20 seconds left - rendered moot as Sidney May of the Eagles also traveled.
The last best opportunity, however, became the most damaging.
With 10 seconds remaining, Maready dribbled the basketball from right to left, parallel to the Warriors' basket, eight feet away. Maready stopped and picked up her dribble, then stepped to the right for a clear shooting lane.
A referee whistled her for traveling. A second later, Del Norte head coach Mike Ernest made a remark toward the referee and was whistled for a technical foul.
Eagle Point's Casie Johnson sank both technical free throws and Adriene Wood chipped in two more as the Eagles defeated the Warriors, 70-65, on Monday night.
"We're not making any excuses on that call," an emotional Ernest said after the game. "We're not going to tell the community that we made excuses on that call. This program doesn't make excuses anymore."
Ernest's technical foul - his opinion of the moment likely shared by the partisan Del Norte High School crowd - and the events that followed overshadowed what had been a resilient performance by the Warriors on both sides of the ball. Del Norte led just three times in the first three quarters and overcame a seven-point deficit to open the fourth quarter.
"The thing I'm proud of with the girls, they battled this whole game," he said. "They played with a lot of heart. They left it all on the floor for me. That's all a coach can ask."
Maready's back-to-back travels in the game's waning seconds overshadowed a career night: Twenty-five points and 15 rebounds for the senior. Fellow senior Emma Card contributed a double-double of her own (14 points, 10 rebounds) and junior Kaitlyn Clemann grabbed nine rebounds as Del Norte controlled the glass.
Johnson led Eagle Point with 25 points, and May scored 19. Wood contributed 11 of her 16 points in the second half in keeping the Warriors at bay.
Card kick-started Del Norte's fourth-quarter rally with nine points in five possessions, and Babich and Maready chipped in baskets to give the Warriors a 58-57 lead midway through the quarter. Eagle Point's Wood responded with a three-pointer to retain the lead, but Maready made another with 2:36 remaining for a 63-62 lead.
It would, however, be the last lead of the game for the Warriors.
Loftin's missed free throw was one of seven missed by Del Norte (8-of-15), and Maready's two traveling violations were among 16 turnovers committed by the Warriors. (Eagle Point turned the ball over four times.)
Ernest's technical foul did not seal the Eagles' victory; it added an exclamation point to the general frustration of what could have been.
"This was a game that would define who we are, and I think the community saw the type of team we have," Ernest said. "If we play like this the rest of the year, we're going to win (the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5) League.
"It's just a tough loss, I think but they learned from this. We've got to remember how we played tonight (going forward)."
The Warriors came into the game off a consolation championship in the Ukiah Tournament this past weekend.
Del Norte defeated Piner High of Santa Rosa, 49-28, behind 10 points from Babich. The Warriors held a 4-point lead over the Prospectors at the half before outscoring them 27-8 in the second half.
Del Norte travels to Grants Pass today, facing Hidden Valley High at 6 p.m., before heading to the Bandon (Ore.) Tournament.
Reach Robert Husseman at rhusseman@