Warriors battle back from 14-point deficit, lose 48-45

The shots just wouldn't go in.

Despite trailing virtually the entire game, the Del Norte girls basketball team found itself within striking distance as the clock wound down.

The Warriors had three chances to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. All three hit iron and bounced out and Del Norte fell 48-45 to McKinleyville in Thunen Gymnasium.

"We didn't give up," said Del Norte head coach Jeff Cook. "We played through even though we were down for most of the game. We fought hard, but again we couldn't hit any shots. We got the shots we wanted, we just couldn't hit them."

McKinleyville captured its first lead less than two minutes into the game and held on to it until the end. Midway through the third quarter, Del Norte found itself trailing by 14 points.

Del Norte started to heat up when Grace

Bruschi hit the Warriors' first three-pointer of the night to spark a 9-4 run that brought the game back within single digits for the start of the fourth quarter.

In the final period, Regin Lofin scored a quick six points in two minutes to pull Del Norte within four points with 4:05 left to play.

Loftin, who has started most of the games this season, came off the bench on Wednesday to score a team-high 13 points. Bruschi added 12.

"I mixed up the lineup a little bit today," Cook said. "We brought Regin off the bench and she did a good job."

The game remained close throughout the final four minutes. Senior Panhia Yang took the game over with her defense down the stretch. Yang drew a charge with a minute left and hit the front end of the 1-and-1 to make it a one-score game at 47-44. Yang drew another charge on McKinleyvilles next possesion and hit another free throw to bring Del Norte within two points.

"We have been working on taking charges," Cook said. "Del Norte is known for taking a charge. It is just one of those things where some girls are tough enough to do it and some girls can't. Panhia is tough. She has taken a lot of charges, or tried to at least. They don't always go her way, but she is tough."

McKinleyville was able to get a free throw, but Del Norte had the ball trailing by three points with 11.7 seconds remaining. Panhia missed a three-point shot to tie the game, but Kaitlyn Clemann spraled out on the floor to grab a piece of a loose ball and force a jump ball with 2.5 seconds left.

Del Norte retained possession, but Loftin's off-balanced three pointer at the end of the game missed as the buzzer sounded.

"We didn't give up," Cook said. "We played through even though we were down for most of the game. We fought hard, but again we couldn't hit any shots. We got the shots we wanted, we just couldn't hit them."

The loss drops Del Norte to 8-6 overall this season and 0-2 in the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5. The Warriors will be back in action on Friday when they travel to Eureka.

"They have a couple good shooters," Cook said of Eureka. "I know they went down south and played in a couple tournaments. It is going to be another tough game. Nobody is expecting anything from us, so I am just glad that we are competing."

It will be the first league game on the road so far for Del Norte, but the Warriors are no stranger to traveling after playing 11 straight road games to open the season.

"It seems like we play better on the road. Hopefully it chills the nerves a little bit for the girls. We are going to compete again."

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com.