The Del Norte girls basketball team ran into a red-hot Marin Catholic team in the North Coast Section Division IV quarterfinals on Saturday, and the Warriors just didn’t have an answer. The No. 4 Wildcats jumped out in front early and slowly pulled away throughout the game for a 58-41 victory over the No. 5 Warriors in Kentfield.

Marin Catholic scored on each of its first three possessions to jump out to a quick 7-0 lead and pushed their advantage to 11-1 just two minutes into the contest and Del Norte just couldn’t knock down enough shots to climb back into the game.

“The kids really left it all out on the court on Saturday; we just missed so many shots,” said Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton. “We didn’t play very good defense —we protected the house but we gave up a lot of threes — and they were just on fire. That was their highest percentage game from three all year long. They were just on fire, and their coaches were telling me after the game that, ‘We have never shot that well ever.’ So it was definitely their night; it wasn’t our night.”

Marin Catholic finished the first half going 7-of-10 from behind the three point line to take a huge 36-19 lead before the Warriors hit back to back three pointers of their own to pull within 36-25 at halftime. The Wildcats hit four more three pointers after halftime to finish with 11 for the game.

“They went 7 from 10 in the first half from three, and we were not even answering,” Clifton said. “We made a little run at the end of the second quarter, but we just couldn’t come back. The girls played hard, and defensively we did pretty good. There was just a couple times we miscommunicated and all of a sudden they are drilling shots. It’s not like they were getting wide open shots — they had a couple open ones, but they were hitting contested threes.”

Del Norte has had several players battling the flu since the postseason began, and that has seemed to coincide with a shooting slump for the Warriors.

“That is just part of the game,” Clifton said. “It sucks, but they had some girls that were sick too. Of course they also had 17 girls on their roster.”

Payten Healy finished the game with a team-high 12 points, while junior Kaleya Sanchez added 11 points while providing some shutdown defense.

“Kaleya Sanchez was very very good,” Clifton said. “She completely shut down their stud in both games in the playoffs. She played really well (against Marin Catholic); their coaches were pretty impressed with her.”

With the loss, Del Norte falls to 16-10 overall this season, but all of those losses have come against strong competition all season long.

“I was telling the girls that we have 10 losses, but for nine of those losses those teams are still playing right now,” Clifton said. “The only exception is Bishop Manogue. That puts into prospective how loaded our schedule was. We are a very good team; we are just really young. It is sad to see Payten and Claire go, but they left a lot behind for the younger girls to learn from. They are both just great athletes. Best of luck to Payten and Claire, but for the rest of the girls it’s time to get back to work.”

Although Saturday’s loss knocked Del Norte out of the NCS playoffs, that isn’t necessarily the end of the year for the Warriors.

“Our season is still not officially over because we have a pretty good chance of getting into the state tournament for the first time ever,” Clifton said. “That would be very rewarding if we could. They take the top four teams, so if you make it to the quarterfinals then you are in. But if St. Joseph of Notre Dame goes up into the open bracket, then I think we would be in as the five-seed.”

Clifton said he is planning to continue practicing through at least Wednesday, with the California Interscholastic Federation releasing its state tournament brackets on Sunday.

“I don’t want to call it a season ender — I am hoping that we can get into that state bracket — but if not then we had a good year and we had a great run,” Clifton said.

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