Size seems to mean little to the Del Norte boys basketball team. The Warriors used a mix of stingy defense and timely shooting to surprise Arcata with a 46-35 victory on the road Thursday to open league play.
Arcata (9-9, 0-1 HDN Big 5) featured a starting lineup with four players over 6 feet tall including a 6-foot-7 center. In sharp contrast, the Warriors (7-5, 1-0) starting five had just one player over 6 feet.
"This group of kids, I don't think that height intimidates them," said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez.
That is good, because the Warriors play against a lot of it.
"Pretty much every night, we are going to be smaller than everybody else," Lopez said. "They have kind of taken it as a challenge and so far we have been able to step up to that challenge."
So far this season, Del Norte's main counter to its size disadvantage has been its hustle. That recipe was successful once again for the Warriors against Arcata.
"I was really proud of our effort," said Lopez. "We were outsized at just about every position. If we don't play that hard, we can't compete.
"Just as an observer, if you were to look at that game before it started, you would think, 'Oh man, this is a mismatch,' said Lopez. "So I was just proud of how hard the kids played and how hard they worked. This is a testament to them. They went out and won it."
Not only did the Warriors get the win, but they never trailed. The only time Arcata was able to pull even was at 8-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Del Norte quickly regained the lead and stretched it to 20-14 by halftime. Arcata was able to stick around, however, threatening to regain the lead throughout the third quarter. Arcata whittled the Del Norte lead down to three points three times in the period, but each time the Warriors answered with a basket of their own to keep the Tigers at arm's length.
"It seemed like every time they made a run we would get a big rebound, or somebody would make a bucket or we would make that extra pass to get a good look. That was huge for us."
In the fourth quarter Del Norte's defense buckled down. The Warriors held Arcata without a field goal over the final eight minutes of the game.
"I think we frustrated them a little bit," Lopez said. "We were physical without being dirty, which I was really proud of the guys for. We played really hard, but we stayed within the rules and I think that frustrated them a little bit."
Meanwhile, Del Norte got hot on offense, scoring six unanswered points to push the lead into double digits. Arcata wasn't able to get the deficit under eight the rest of the way.
"They missed a few shots that I think they normally make," Lopez said. "Once they did that, and we hit a few shots on the other end to widen the gap, I think they got frustrated and got away from what they wanted to do."
The Warriors return to conference play Tuesday with a trip to McKinleyville.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com.