Bay Area challenge

February 22, 2008 12:00 am
Warrior senior Cliff Van Hook takes the ball down the court against Encinal Tuesday night at home in during the first round NCS playoff match. Van Hook was terrific for the Warriors, scoring 23 points in the win. Tonight, Del Norte faces top seed Campolindo in Moraga at 7:30 p.m. (The Daily Triplicate/ Bryant Anderson).
Warrior senior Cliff Van Hook takes the ball down the court against Encinal Tuesday night at home in during the first round NCS playoff match. Van Hook was terrific for the Warriors, scoring 23 points in the win. Tonight, Del Norte faces top seed Campolindo in Moraga at 7:30 p.m. (The Daily Triplicate/ Bryant Anderson).

By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

MORAGA — It won't get any easier for the Del Norte High boys basketball team tonight.

The Warriors, the No. 8 seed in the North Coast Section Division III playoffs, have made the more than six-hour drive and are in the Bay Area to take on top seed Campolindo of Moraga tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The Cougars were the champs of the Diablo Foothill Conference with a 12-2 conference mark and are 19-7 overall. Campolindo can score points in bunches with an up tempo style.

The Cougars have put up 90 or more points five times this year, including a 91-49 win over Dublin, which is the No. 6 seed in the Division III playoffs.

"We're excited to play," Warrior head coach Blaine Lopez said. "They're a very good team. They are the number one seed for a reason."

Del Norte has had an excellent season, using its old-school combination of grit, tough defense and teamwork to win the Big 5 Conference and the Dick Niclai postseason tournament. The Warriors downed Encinal High 54-46 Tuesday night in Crescent City in a first-round NCS playoff match up. Del Norte is 19-5 overall.

Lopez said his team needs to continue to focus and do the things they have done all year to be successful.

This includes going hard on the boards, diving for loose balls and playing an aggressive defense that puts pressure on the opponent and keeps them from scoring a bunch of points.

Against the Cougars, keeping them from scoring will be key.

Campolindo is led by 6-foot-9 senior center Jack Trotter, who averages 23.8 points and 13.2 rebounds per game.

In a 75-53 win against Northgate on Feb. 14 that sealed the conference crown for the Cougars, Trotter scored 41 points, and had 16 rebounds and 10 blocks.

The Cougars also have two other players, Will Shields (14.7) and Chris Dyer (11.8) who average more than 10 points a game.

Lopez said his team has to keep turnovers down low, and make as many shots as they can.

"We can't stray from what got us here," he said, "We have to battle on the boards and apply great pressure on defense. We need to play extremely well."

Del Norte has played true team ball all year, with several players stepping up to the plate.

This includes senior Cliff Van Hook, who has brought veteran leadership and an uncanny shooting touch, especially from three-point range.

On Tuesday against Encinal he scored 23 points, knocking out five three-pointers.

Junior Cody Hoffman has developed into an inside force and has played well on both ends of the court as a good defender, rebounder and solid scorer.

Chad Freeman and Saxon Schultz are senior leaders and have brought toughness and tenacity as well as being able to score when called upon. Junior Cole Lesley has been big off the bench and has the ability to score many points in a hurry.

The Warriors left Thursday morning and stopped on the way to practice before they arrived in the Bay Area Thursday night.

"We didn't want to give up a whole day of practice," Lopez said.

Lopez said his team is excited that it won on Tuesday the Warriors' first NCS playoff game since 2002.

"There's only eight teams left in our section (playoffs) and we are able to say that we're one of them," he said.

As has been the case all season, there will be Del Norte fans who will brave the curves of Hwy. 101 to make the game tonight.

"It's a long way, but the kids love having them there," Lopez said.