The Del Norte girls basketball team’s season long struggle to score points reared its head once again in the postseason as Eureka came into Thunen Gym and avenged a pair of regular season losses with a 37-27 victory over the Warriors in the first round of the Dick Niclai Tournament.
“My fear every game is, ‘Are we going to be able to put the ball in the bucket?’” said Del Norte head coach Jeff Cook. “They played a zone and we don’t have that shooter that is lights out. We tried bringing girls off the bench that can shoot, but we just weren’t hitting anything.”
While the Warriors struggled to hit shots from outside, Del Norte’s leading scorer Denise Horton struggled to get open in the paint as the Loggers made some adjustments to keep more pressure on the sophomore forward.
“We couldn’t get the ball to Denise at all,” Cook said. “We have lived off of her down low. They closed that off, and we couldn’t hit any jump shots.”
With neither the inside game working nor outside shots falling, Del Norte was held to just five points in each of the first three quarters of the game.
Despite struggling to score, the Warriors defense was able to keep the Loggers within reach for most of the night, holding Eureka to just six points in the first quarter and trailing just 17-10 at halftime.
The Loggers were able to do their damage offensively with rebounds and free throws. Eureka scored 15 second-chance points, including the Loggers’ first seven points of the fourth quarter. Eureka also hit 14-of-24 from the charity stripe.
“Defensively we played well, except for not boxing out. They got a lot of really long rebounds though,” Cook said. “We just need to make some shots. That has been our problem all year.”
After the Loggers took a game-high 11 point lead 47 seconds into the fourth quarter, Del Norte started to make a late push.
Payten Healy hit a three pointer with 6:13 left and Horton trimmed the lead down to six points with a layup inside with 5:22 remaining. Del Norte stayed within two possessions until the final minute of the game, when Eureka hit all six of its free throws to pull away down the stretch.
“Our sense of urgency didn’t seem to be there all night long,” Cook said. “Like I said, it is hard to beat somebody three times.”
Horton and Kaleya Sanchez led the Warriors with eight point apiece. Payten Healy scored six points, Maddison Smedley added three points, and Claire Smith chipped in two to round out the scoring for the Warriors.
The loss knocks Del Norte out of the Dick Niclai Tournament, but the Warriors will likely receive an at large bid to the North Coast Section Division IV Tournament when brackets are released on Sunday. Cook said he would like to see his team play with a little more urgency in the NCS.
“We just seemed flat tonight,” he said. “We are going to have to have a team meeting to see if we want to play next week in the NCS.”
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.