Del Norte advances to face Hoopa in Dick Nicial Tournament

For once, it was the Del Norte offense that came through in the clutch.

The Del Norte boys basketball team relied on its defense to carry it to a 9-8 regular season record, but it used a hot shooting night in Eureka to advance past the first round of the Dick Nicial Conference Tournament with a 63-58 road victory over the Loggers.

The last time Del Norte walked into Jay Willard Gymnasium in Eureka, the Warriors saw their nine-game winning streak snapped in a 50-48 overtime loss that eventually cost Del Norte home court advantage in the first round. On Tuesday, Del Norte got another streak started.

"Both teams played pretty well," said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez. "They did a lot of good things that made it tough on us, and we made shots, which helps obviously."

On Tuesday Eureka and Del Norte combined for 35 more points than when the teams first played each other in Crescent City and 18 more points than when the teams met on Feb. 7 in Eureka.

"We had some good looks and we made some shots," said head coach Blaine Lopez. "That helped us, because we had to keep up with them. We couldn't stop them. They are bigger than us inside and they did a good job of taking advantage of them."

Eureka has had a decided size advantage in all three matchups. In the first round of the playoffs, however, they were much better at exploiting that advantage.

"They are doing the same things that they were in the beginning of the season, they are just better at it," Lopez said. "That is kind of typical, the longer the year goes, you get better at what you do. Coach (Ed) Houseworth does a great job, and he has a couple good post players and some really good athletes. They can do things that hurt us."

While Eureka was pounding the paint on offense, Del Norte did much of its damage from outside the three-point arch. The Warriors netted eight three-pointers in the contest, including four from junior guard Josh Gruden.

Gruden started the game by hitting two three pointers to put Del Norte up 6-0. Eureka quickly answered with a 9-2 run to take its first lead of the night. From that point on, the game rapidly shifted back and forth with six ties and 12 lead changes.

Del Norte went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to grab the games largest lead for either team at 37-29 and held a 44-39 lead heading into the third quarter.

Eureka opened the final period with a quick 5-0 run to tie the game at 44 but junior Steven Maready knocked down a three-pointer with 5:14 left that put the Warriors up for good.

Down the stretch, Del Norte came up big at the free throw line. The Warriors scored their final 10 points from the charity stripe, hitting 10-of-15 in the final 4:17 of the game.

"I was proud of the guys," Lopez said. "I thought we battled and battled and were able to just keep hanging in there. Then we pulled away a little bit."

It was Del Norte's second win over an HDN Big 5 opponent on the road this season, after opening conference play with a win at Arcata.

"We haven't been very good away from home," Lopez said. "I was telling the kids that. We won at Arcata and since then we have kind of taken our lumps on the road. It was nice to pick up a road win for sure. It is tough to win in this league on the road."

The Warriors advance to the semifinals where they will play against Hoopa in Hoopa on Thursday at 7 p.m. Hoopa enters the game with a perfect 6-0 league record and 20-4 overall, including wins over HDN Big 5 teams McKinleyville, Arcata and Del Norte. Hoopa topped Del Norte in a close 54-51 overtime game in Hoopa in January.

"We have seen them and they have seen us, so we both know each other a little bit," Lopez said. "It will be fun. It is a great place to play. We have got to hope that we play really well. They are a very good basketball team. So if we don't play well, then we don't have a chance. That is a tough place to play, everybody knows that."

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