8th-, 5th-grade girls win division

The first official season for the Crescent City Warriors AAU basketball program came to a close on Monday at the Jam On It tournament in Reno, Nev.

The Warriors sent seven teams, including four girls teams and three boys teams to compete in the largest AAU tournament in the nation, which drew over 1,100 teams this year.

"It was a great experience," said eighth-grade girls coach John Horner. "There were over 1,100 teams there, and it was so well organized and run. I will definitely push to go back next year, though we will probably have to do a little bit more fundraising to help ease the cost for parents."

The Del Norte girls were able to capture two championships in their respective divisions. The fifth-grade and eighth-grade girls teams both took first place over the weekend. The sixth-grade boys took second-place.

"All four of our games were tough-fought games," Horner said. "It was cool because we played teams from everywhere. We played a team from Chico, a team from Sacramento, a team from Lake County, which is near Santa Rosa, and in the championship game we played a team from Spokane, Washington."

The fifth-grade girls notched wins over Bakersfield, Yreka and Fresno in the championship game to win the pool with a 3-1 record.

"Every game we played was close," said fifth-grade girls coach Justin Clifton. "The experience was great. I definitely want to thank all the parents for helping out with the kids, getting them to practice and supporting them.

For the eighth-grade girls, it was the third straight year that most of these girls have been playing AAU basketball with Horner.

"I have been working with most of these girls for three years," Horner said. "We started an AAU team with them in sixth grade. ... It was a great win for the girls and it is much deserved."

The eighth-graders have come a long way in the past three years. Horner said these girls have been playing basketball for 10 months out of the year for the last three years.

"I always like to tell people that, because it shows that if you put the time and effort into things, then good things will happen," Horner said. "If you just pick up that orange round ball for two months out of the year, you aren't going to be very good at the game."

For the fifth-grade girls team, it was their first season playing together.

"When we started out, there were only two girls that could even dribble," Clifton said. "We practiced all year long with the sixth-grade girls coached by Preston Rosalowski and we turned these girls into all-around basketball players, starting with defense and rebounding."

The fifth-grade team used those lessons to amass a 12-5 overall record, including four championships in the six tournaments they attended.

"This is the first time that I know of that Del Norte County has ever had a fifth-grade girls AAU team," Clifton said. "I was raised here and played for Del Norte and we never had anything like this. The experience is unbelievable. The opportunity that these girls are getting is awesome."