m was able to overcome some mistakes in the first half to keep the game close, but the Warriors couldn’t overcome a cold-shooting second half, as Fortuna came away with a 49-36 victory in Thunen Gymnasium in the first game of the Dick Niclai Tournament.
Del Norte struggled to get much going offensively throughout the game, with its lowest offensive output since late December
“That was the worst that we have played in a month,” said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez. “It is just too bad, because they have busted their butts all year, so for them to come out and play like that their last home game is a bummer. We haven’t played like that since the first time we played (Fortuna) down there.”
That road trip to Fortuna was the first HDN Big 5 game of the season. Lopez has felt his team’s energy and effort had been much better to close out the regular season before Saturday’s struggles.
“I don’t think we played very well all night, but in the second half we just didn’t make a shot,” Lopez said.
Fortuna lead for nearly the entire game, though the score remained close throughout the first half. Del Norte fell behind 3-0 early, but fought back to take a 7-5 lead on a bucket from sophomore Omar Banuelos with 2:40 left in the quarter. The Huskies were able to retake the lead with a three pointer with 2:05 remaining in the first quarter and the game went back and fourth in the final few minutes.
In the second quarter, Del Norte retook the lead with five straight points from Banuelos to jump ahead 14-11, but the Huskies once again put together a run, outscoring Del Norte 8-2 to get back in front and Fortuna led for the rest of the game.
Fortuna led just 23-21 at halftime, but opened up some breathing room in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors 11-6 in the period.
Then the Huskies put the game away with a 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter to push its lead to 17 points.
The loss on Saturday comes on the heels of an impressive performance in Eureka on Friday. Del Norte went on the road for a resounding 59-43 victory over Eureka and later learned that it ended in a three-way tie for first place in the HDN Big 5 after Fortuna picked up a win over McKinleyville later that night. All three teams finished the Big 5 season with a 5-3 league record.
“I was proud of them last night,” Lopez said. “I thought we played really well in the second half especially last night. We are fortunate because we did what we needed to do, then we caught a break when Fortuna beat McKinleyville. So that is nice, that is something that they can’t take away from them ever. They tied for first which is definitely an accomplishment and they deserved it, we earned it. We worked out butts off to get it, so I am really proud of them for that.”
Saturday’s loss knocks Del Norte out of the Niclai Tournamnet, but the Warriors will almost certainly be back in action next week as the North Coast Section Division IV brackets are released on Sunday. The Warriors are 13-10 overall this season and Del Norte is currently ranked No. 10 in Division IV according to maxpreps.com’s playoff prediction model.
“We will get in, but we will be on the road somewhere,” Lopez said.
On Saturday Lopez said his Warriors were planning to take the day off on Monday, before getting back to work today to prepare for a potential postseason run in the NCS Tournament.
“We will be doing the same stuff that we always work on, nothing is different,” Lopez said. “We are going to take Monday off, get some rest and get our legs back. It has been a long couple weeks both physically and mentally. Then we will get back to work on Tuesday and see if we can’t be ready to play.”