DN boys and girls begin league play this week against Arcata

The season is about to truly get started.

Although the Del Norte boys and girls basketball teams have been playing games for over a month, boys coach Blaine Lopez and girls coach Jeff Cook have both had one eye on the approaching league season.

The long wait is nearly over as the boys travel south to Arcata today and the girls host the Tigers on Friday.

Battle of young talent

The Warrior boys team enters conference play sporting a 6-5 overall record, fresh off of a championship over the weekend at the Bandon Tournament. Arcata comes in at 9-8 and has won three straight games.

Like Del Norte, which has three or four underclassmen in the starting lineup and a pair of sophomores coming off the bench, the Tigers have a young team.

"I don't know a lot about them, but they are going to be well coached," Lopez said on Monday. "They are kind of like us, in that they are very young. They have a lot of young kids playing, but they are very talented. I know that if they ever get everything put together, they are going to be very tough."

Arcata has four seniors on the roster, but only two of them play more than 10 minutes a game and neither averages 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the two sophomores on the team are both averaging nearly 20 minutes a game with four juniors adding quality minutes for the Tigers.

"I am hoping that since we are catching them first, maybe they are still not quite where they need to be," Lopez said, adding that they will be a tough test either way.

The Warriors will have to get used to playing strong opponents, however, as league play begins.

"Everybody is going to be good," Lopez predicted. "So we just have to go out and play our game. We have to do the things that we do really well, and try to disrupt some of the things that they do well. I know that sounds like a boring answer, but that is how it works."

One of the main issues for the Warriors this year has been dealing with an undersized lineup. Del Norte expects to be smaller than the other team in every game and tonight's matchup will be no different.

Arcata has five players on its roster that are listed at 6-foot-3 or taller, headlined by 6-foot-7 sophomore Tristan Espy.

So far this season, the Warriors have been able to rely on effort and hustle to help offset the height disparity to some degree.

"We try to box out. We are going to try to get you to go through us," Lopez said. "Again, we are not very big, so if we don't do that we are really in trouble. Then we are just going to out-scrap you."

Starting with the best

First year girls head coach Jeff Cook and the Warriors (8-4) will be tested immediately in league play. Arcata has gotten off to a blistering 11-2 start and have won nine games in a row heading into conference play.

Cook said he doesn't know quite what to expect. He hasn't ever had a chance to watch the girls play a conference game due to conflicts as the JV boys coach the last five years.

"I am just hoping to compete," Cook said. "From what I am hearing, Arcata is the team to beat right now. They are so far in the preseason and they go down south and play a lot of tougher teams."

Arcata is led by senior forward Lauren McCoy, who was named the Times-Standard H-DN All-Star Most Valuable Player last season. She is averaging 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds so far as a senior.

Del Norte will try to counter with a more balanced approach. The Warriors have five players averaging between 6.5 and 9.5 points per game.

"I think we are going to match up well," Cook said. "I know they have one solid player, but to me, we have five. Hopefully the team concept pulls us through."

The Warriors planned to take a team scouting trip down to Arcata on Wednesday to watch the Tigers play Ferndale.

The Tigers have already played two games this week, beating St. Bernard's 54-29 on Monday before playing Ferndale.

"I hope they are tired," Cook said with a laugh.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com.