The Del Norte girls basketball team exploded out of the gates in its first two games of the season with a 67-26 blowout victory over Klamath Union on Thursday in the first game of the 63rd annual Yreka Miners Invitational, followed by a 66-16 romp over Mt. Shasta in the second round. After outscoring their opponents 133-42 in the first two games of the tournament, the Warriors will play for the championship today at 4:30 p.m.
The Warriors got into early foul trouble in their first game of the season with Dennise Horton and Kaleya Sanchez, both forwards, picking up a pair of quick fouls in the first quarter.
“I had no choice but to go to the bench,” said Del Norte’s first-year head coach Justin Clifton. “We went small and we just ran away with it. I wouldn’t say they were a bad team, but they just didn’t have any answers for us.”
The Warriors offense was clicking all game long, and Clifton said Del Norte was able to score from almost anywhere on the court.
“We are hitting threes, we are getting a lot of layups, we are hitting jump shots and we are able to get it inside — it is fun,” Clifton said. “We are hard to guard. We just have to stay healthy. We can’t have injuries.”
Defensively, Del Norte was able to keep Klamath Union at bay, giving up just 26 points, but Clifton said he knows his team could have played better on that end of the floor.
“We held them to 26 points, so it looks like we did great, but from what I know we can do we could have held them to fewer points,” Clifton said. “I am happy with 26 points, don’t get me wrong, but we need to be able to hold them down.”
Claire Smith was banged up in the third quarter of the game on Thursday and forced to sit out the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, but the senior forward was back in action for Del Norte on Friday.
Although the Warriors were successful on Thursday, Clifton said his squad looked like a whole new team on Friday against Mt. Shasta.
“I thought Mt. Shasta was a better team than Klamath Union, personally, but I really laid into the girls about letting Klamath Union score 26 points on us and we really came to play (on Friday),” Clifton said.
Del Norte’s defense was downright stingy in its second game of the season. The Warriors allowed just four points in the first two quarter coming on a three pointer and a made free throw as Del Norte built up an insurmountable lead.
“We started taking some charges; our weak side help was there,” Clifton said. “We were also really pressuring the ball. We were learning how to get over the screen and under the screen. They were starting to come together.”
With the game already in hand at halftime, Clifton said he started using substitutions liberally throughout the final two quarters.
“In the second half we came back and started the bench and quit pressing,” Clifton said. “The game was out of control by halftime.”
With two wins under its belt, Clifton said the Warriors will play the winner of Yreka and Klamath Union’s game, which took place on Friday. The championship game will tip off at 4:30 p.m. in Yreka.
Clifton said Del Norte’s trio of seniors are a big reason that the team has been able to get off to such a strong start to the year.
“The seniors have been great leaders and really taken in the young girls,” he said. “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores on this team, and the seniors are doing a phenomenal job. I wish I could have coached them over the last four years. They are great kids, really good human beings, and they are doing a great job.”
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.