The Del Norte girls basketball team continued its impressive display of dominance at the Yreka Miners Invitational with a lopsided 62-23 victory over host Yreka in the championship game on Saturday.
The Warriors 39-point win in the final ended up being their closest game of the tournament after opening with a 41-point win over Klamath Union on Thursday followed by a 50-point victory over Mt. Shasta on Friday.
Del Norte came out relatively slowly in the championship game, and found themselves tied 4-4 after the first few minutes of play. But the Warriors exploded midway through the first quarter scoring the last 12 points of the period and the first 12 points of the 2nd quarter for a 24-point lead.
Del Norte was able to increase its lead to 40-10 by halftime and held a big lead throughout the second half.
“After sitting around all day and checking out of the hotel both teams started out slowly,” Clifton said. “We finally got our legs though, and then we just ran away with it. We brought in the bench and they kept it going. Yreka just didn’t have an answer.”
Overall, it was a good first tournament for the Warriors, who have only had one full week of practice together due to a deep run by the volleyball team this fall.
“We had a lot of hotel time, so the kids got to bond and become friends,” Clifton said.
Clifton said he has been impressed with how quickly the Warriors have gelled this season, especially with so many freshmen and sophomores being moved up to a team that already has lots of varsity experience.
“These seniors are just being phenomenal to the younger kids, because they have been there,” Clifton said. “Kaleya (Sanchez) and Dennise (Horton) are also doing a good job. Everyone is bonding well, and you don’t always have that. Usually there is some animosity if a freshmen is challenging you for your spot, but they are buying into it.”
It also provided the coaches an opportunity to get a good look at all 11 players on the roster, with lots of minutes played by the Warriors bench throughout the week.
“We have a little to go over now. It is a good start up tournament for us, especially with volleyball going deep this fall,” said Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton. “We also have girls that played soccer and girls that played tennis, so we haven’t had a whole lot of practice time. Especially with the volleyball girls. So this was a good starter tournament for us.”
The Warriors were able to score more than 60 points in each of its first three games, while surrendering no more than 26. Clifton said the team’s defense frequently led to easy points on the other end throughout Del Norte’s first three games.
“We scored tons of transition points, which is going to be a big part of our offense,” Clifton said. “When you play good defense you are going to get opportunities in transition. Defensively, from game one to game three, we are probably twice as good as we were starting out.”
Although Del Norte was able to roll to easy wins in its first three games, the Warriors have three tough tournaments left before opening up Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 league play. Del Norte will travel to Redding for the Enterprise Tournament next weekend, then will head to Kelseyville the following weekend. Del Norte’s final non-league tournament of the regular season will be in Layfayette.
“There are no more easy tournaments,” Clifton said. “Next week we open up against Enterprise in Redding, and that bracket is loaded. The week after that we open up against Piedmont, which is a team we don’t usually play until the section tournament.”
Clifton, who is in his first year as the Del Norte varsity head coach, said he chose to take his team to more challenging early-season tournaments this season in order to get the girls battle-tested for league competition.
“My theory is that even if we go .500 in those tough tournaments, we want to be ready,” Clifton said. “We want to be in crunch time situations to get the girls better and learn. We are a young team. We do have a lot of great senior leadership, but we are still a young team. You don’t learn as much when you win by 50.”