Third quarter surge helps Fortuna escape Del Norte with a win

The Del Norte boys basketball team gave Fortuna its biggest scare so far in the conference, but the Warriors couldn't complete a fourth quarter comeback, falling 51-44 to Fortuna in Thunen Gymnasium on Thursday.

"For the most part, we played pretty well," said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez. "We battled and worked hard. The effort was there. There were just a few execution things."

Though Fortuna came into the game heavily favored, Del Norte took control in the first half. Junior forward Brandon Japp scored the game's first points on a put-back to take the initial lead and the Warriors never trailed for the first 20 minutes.

After Fortuna tied the game at two, senior guard Dylan Pease answered with back-to-back three pointers to open up an 8-2 Del Norte lead.

The Warriors lead 14-10 heading into the second quarter and quickly turned that into a nine-point advantage with a 5-0 run in the first two minutes, making the score 19-10.

"We weren't doing anything different. It is all the same," Lopez said. "We made some shots and I think the crowd energized us a little bit. And lets face it, they missed some shots that they don't usually miss, too."

Fortuna started to battle back toward the end of the second quarter and tied the game at 26 on a three-point shot with 23 seconds left in the half.

The Huskies took their first lead 26 seconds into the second half with a steal and lay-up on the ensuing fast break. Fortuna got another steal and lay-up about a minute later and the Huskies went on a 15-4 run to grab a double-digit lead.

"The third quarter was where the game was lost," Lopez said. "We gave up three fast-break lay-ups, and we cannot give up easy baskets like that. We also got beat to the middle of the floor three or four times. When you are playing a team that is that good, you cannot have those things happen. There is just not a lot of room for error."

The Warriors were able to regroup in the fourth quarter and whittled Fortuna's lead to 45-40 with 4:15 left.

"I was proud of the kids because we could have given up, but we didn't," Lopez said.

Del Norte had several chances to come within one score of Fortuna over the remaining four minutes. It came as close as 48-44 with 58.6 seconds remaining but couldn't get any of its shots to fall, and Fortuna held on for the win.

It was the first single-digit decision in Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 contests for Fortuna, which has hammered Arcata, McKinleyville and Eureka by 20, 20 and 30 points respectively. Although Del Norte was the first league team to make the Huskies sweat, Lopez didn't take much consolation.

"Unfortunately, they don't give you any points for moral victories," Lopez said. "We are disappointed. We gave ourselves a chance I thought, then we just didn't quite finish. We have got to be able to finish."

With the loss, Del Norte drops to 8-8 overall and 2-2 in the HDN Big 5. Fortuna moves to 15-2 and takes control of the league race with a 4-0 start.

The rest of the league remains in contention for second place. Currently the Warriors are tied with Eureka for second at 2-2. Arcata and McKinleyville trail by one game at 1-3.

Del Norte will have a week off before hosting Arcata to begin the second half of league play.

"We are in second place, and we have a huge game against Arcata on Friday night," Lopez said. "We have to go back to the drawing board and make sure we are ready for next week."

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