The Del Norte girls basketball team edged into the lead early, before blowing the game open in the second quarter en route to a 67-39 victory over McKinleyville in Thunen Gym on Wednesday.

“They came through and they took care of business when it came down to it,” said Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton. “We did give up a lot of points, but we let everybody play.”

Despite some sloppy play in the first quarter, Del Norte held a 15-11 lead after the first eight minutes and quickly pulled away in the second quarter. The Warriors went on a 16-4 run midway through the second period to open up a 19-point advantage and Del Norte kept McKinleyville at arm’s length for the entire second half.

Freshman Jadence Clifton led the Warriors with 26 points against the Panthers. Sanchez and Payten Healy chipped in 14 and 13 points respectively, while Dennise Horton added 10 points.

“I was glad that we came back the way that we did after Friday’s game,” Clifton said. “I told the girls that we are just not going to talk about that game (against Arcata) anymore. We are going to play them again hopefully, maybe twice. We bounced back from it, and that’s what we needed to do.”

Wednesday’s game was the last home game of the regular season and senior night for Del Norte. The Warriors have just two seniors on the team this year, but Healy and Claire Smith have a combined eight years of varsity experience between them.

Clifton, in his first year coaching the varsity team, said he wishes that he could have coached both girls for all four years.

“I am very proud of Payten, she is a very good, smart point guard. She still has a lot of things that she can work on, but she protects the basketball. I don’t even know if she had a turnover tonight, and she played the whole game tonight. She is just very fun to coach. Claire is one of the smartest kids I have ever met. She has a 4.5 (GPA) and I don’t know if she is valedictorian or not, but she has got to be right there. She actually knows the plays better than me, and I made the plays. She is just a very smart kid.”

Del Norte will be back in action on Friday with a trip to Eureka in a battle between second place teams in the HDN Big 5.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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