The Del Norte boys basketball team held a single-digit lead throughout most of the night in Eureka on Friday and pulled away late for a 59-43 victory over the Loggers in the regular season finale.
The win improved Del Norte to 14-9 overall this season. The Warriors also snuck into a three-way tie for the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 league championship with Del Norte, Fortuna and McKinleyville all at 6-3 at the end of the regular season.
Del Norte caught a big break late in the first quarter when Eureka’s leading scorer, Zach Reed, got whistled for a foul on Del Norte’s Howard Soule with 1:36 to play. Reed was then quickly whistled for back-to-back technical fouls as well, ejecting him from the game.
Soule went to the free throw line and hit one of two free throws on the one-and-one, then hit three of four free throws for the technical fouls to push a one-point advantage to a 15-10 lead.
Eureka battled back into the game, tying the score up at 15-15 with a free throw early in the second quarter, but the Warriors retook control of the game with an 11-4 run. The Loggers were able to keep the game close with a buzzer-beating three-pointer just before halftime to close the Warriors lead to 29-24 at the break.
Del Norte’s defense bothered Eureka throughout the first half as the Warriors forced eight Logger turnovers in the first 16 minutes.
The Warriors have been sluggish coming out of halftime in league games this year, but Del Norte was hot coming out of the locker room on Friday.
Soule knocked down a three-pointer to open up the third quarter and the Warriors outscored the Loggers 16-8 in the period to grab a comfortable 13-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Eureka came out hot early in the fourth quarter with four quick points in the first 60 seconds to cut Del Norte’s lead back into single digits at 45-36. But Soule slammed the door shut on Eureka with back-to-back three pointers to push the Warriors’ lead to 15 points with five minutes remaining.
From there Del Norte won pulling away, leading by as much as 19 points, as the Warriors were able to empty their bench for the final few minutes.
Soule finished with a team-high 16 points on a night where eight different Warriors found the hoop. Ethan Price added 12 points for the Warriors, while Omar Banuelos and Judah Robinson added nine and eight points respectively.
Del Norte’s comfortable win over Eureka was only half the story on Friday night. Fortuna went on the road to McKinleyville to hand the Panthers a 78-63 loss. Del Norte and Fortuna’s wins on Friday combined to force a logjam at the top of the HDN Big 5 standings at 6-3.
All three teams are officially considered co-champions for the regular season, making it the first Big 5 boys basketball championship for Del Norte since the Warriors shared the title with Arcata in the 2010-11 season.
With the Niclai Tournament scheduled to kick off next week, all three teams will need to play off for seeding.
Del Norte will host Fortuna today, tipping off at 7 p.m., in the first of two play-in games. The winner will host McKinleyville on Monday to decide the Big 5’s No. 1 seed for the Niclai, while the loser of today’s game will be the No. 3 seed. The Niclai Tournament is officially scheduled to kick off on Tuesday.
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .