The Crescent City Lady Warriors 6th grade AAU team got off to a rough start in their first season playing together, but since that intitial weekend the Lady Warriors have been on a tear. Crescent City has won 14 of its last 15 games while taking first place in three of its last four tournaments, and finishing as the runner up in the other one.

“We went from that first tournament where I would call an inbounds play and the girls wouldn’t know what to do, to now,” said Crescent City head coach Nick White. “They have just progressed and got better along the way. If the girls want to do it and they put their mind to it they can do whatever they want. It is a good group of kids that have respond really well to everything.”

The Lady Warriors are made up of five players from Redwood, three from Crescent Elk, and a player from Uncharted Shores Academy. White said the girls were familiar with each other after playing in the Del Norte Recreation League over the years, and a few players previously venturing onto the AAU circuit, but this is first year the girls have played together.

That lack off familiarity showed in the Lady Warriors first tournament of the year in Eugene as Crescent City lost its first three games and finished the weekend 1-3.

“We came into that first tournament and we played teams that were already midseason,” White said. “It was our first tournament so we had a hard time adjusting. The good thing about it is that the girls competed hard.”

The Lady Warriors weren’t down for long, however. Crescent City was back in Eugene for the One Oregon Amateur Basketball Tournament where they completely turned the tables, going undefeated to take first place.

“In the second tournament we didn’t know what would happen going into it, but the girls just improved because they had been there before,” White said. “They knew what to expect, they knew the competition and they raised their level of play. We haven’t looked back since then. That was the turning point of our season when the girls started to believe in what was going on.”

After winning in Eugene, the Lady Warriors went on to take first place at the Elevation Tip-Off and the Battle for the Northstate, both in Redding. Crescent City also finished in second place in the Battle for the Redwoods in Northern Humboldt.

Although the Lady Warriors 6th grade team has proved capable of scoring enough to win games, White says it has been the ability to stifle opponents that has led to Crescent City’s success.

“Our defense has been stellar. In the beginning it was OK, and then it has just progressively gotten better as the year has gone on, and that is what we hang our hat on,” White said. “We have really shut some teams out. Our offense is OK, but our defense is what wins us games. In one of the championship games we held our opponent to five points in the second half. The kids just get better every week, and they listen to the adjustments we make during the game. It makes it easy for the coaches.”

Crescent City is currently 15-4 overall as it prepares for its final tournament of the season at the Singler Open in Medford on Saturday.

“Our expectations are the same every week — we just want them to go in, try hard and play together,” White said. “Winning and losing doesn’t matter. If we do all the little things right then it doesn’t matter if we win or lose. That is what we constantly preach to them.”

Win, lose or draw in Medford, White said he is hoping that this will be the first of many seasons together for the majority of the team.

“I plan on keeping the kids together so next year we will compete in 7th grade, then 8th grade and hopefully get the girls ready to play on JVs in high school,” he said. “We want to keep the same group of kids together so that they play and they learn each other and what everyone brings to the team.”

The season may end this weekend, but White said he is hoping to give the girls some opportunities to improve over the summer, as well as open up the team for new players to join.

“We are planning on having a summer program with open gyms if kids want to come out, and I think we are going to do a try-out next year too, to open it up to a bigger pool of kids,” he said.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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