Though the Del Norte High boys basketball team led Fortuna High for all of 20 seconds in the second half, a standing room-only crowd at Del Norte High School's Thunen Gymnasium felt a winnable game slip away.
The Huskies scored eight points during their final four possessions to seal a 49-39 victory on Tuesday night.
Del Norte crashed and burned on its way to the final buzzer on Senior Night.
Sean DeArman committed a turnover in the backcourt and incurred an offensive goaltending violation on consecutive possessions. Doug Ovickturned the ball over with 30 seconds remaining on a bad pass. Steven Maready was whistled for an offensive foul before an inbounds pass, and Warriors head coach Blaine Lopez was whistled for a technical foul protesting the call.
"If we don't get called for offensive goaltending, it's a two-point game," Lopez said. "We (also) had two turnovers at the wrong time."
What had been an inspired game for Del Norte (7-12 overall, 2-5 Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League) ended on a sour note.
Sophomore Josh Gruden caught fire early, scoring all eight of his points in the first quarter as the Warriors built an 11-8 lead.
Fortuna (20-4 overall, 7-1 HDN Big 5) ended the second quarter on a 14-6 run to take a 24-23 halftime lead and then held Del Norte's offense in check during a four-minute field goal drought in the third quarter. The Warriors trailed 35-31 entering the game's final period.
"We played as well as we could defensively," Lopez said. "That's a good basketball team - best in the league. We couldn't quite get there."
DeArman led Del Norte with 15 points in his final home game. Nate Ambrosini (20 points) paced the Huskies, who clinched a share of the HDN Big 5 title with the victory.
In addition to DeArman, Del Norte celebrated seniors Ovick, Jacob Dorosz, Blair Westbrook and Raul Zepeda, along with senior members of the cheerleading squad and drill teams. Westbrook sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" to a rousing ovation from the crowd.
The Warriors' junior varsity squad's comeback attempt fell short in a 42-36 loss to Fortuna. Del Norte is now 6-15 overall (1-6 HDN Big 5) on the season.
The Del Norte High freshman team continued its outstanding season with a 64-39 victory over the Huskies. The young Warriors are now 11-2 overall and 6-1 in HDN Big 5 play.
Del Norte travels to Arcata on Thursday for its final regular-season game against the Tigers. The freshman teams will tip off at 4:30 p.m., followed by the junior varsity (6 p.m.) and varsity teams (7:30 p.m.)
Reach Robert Husseman at email@example.com.