The Del Norte girls basketball team grabbed the lead early and pulled away throughout the game in Fortuna, picking up a 67-36 victory over the Huskies on the road in the Warriors’ Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 opener.

Both teams got off to a slow start, with half a dozen empty possessions apiece to open the game, but the Warriors took a 4-3 lead on a steal and layup, and Del Norte was in control of the game the rest of the way.

Del Norte’s starting center, Dennise Horton, got into early foul trouble, which forced the team to go to a smaller lineup, but the Warriors were unfazed.

With more speed on the court Del Norte picked up its defensive pressure and the Huskies struggled to get into its offense.

“Defensively we were very, very sound and they could not run with us at all. We were kind of forced to go small because Horton got into foul trouble, and I think that was the worst thing that could have happened for Fortuna. When we went small we just ran away.”

Del Norte ripped off an 11-2 run over the final four minutes of the first quarter and added to its lead with a a 6-0 run early in the second quarter.

After taking a 31-21 lead into halftime, the Warriors really poured it on starting in the third quarter. Del Norte came out on a 19-7 run to push the lead above 20 points, and the Huskies were unable to threaten the Warriors’ lead again.

While the Del Norte defense held Fortuna at bay all night long, Clifton said Wednesday was the best shooting night that the Warriors have had all season.

Senior Payten Healy led the long-rang barrage with six three-pointers on her way to a career-high 31 points.

“Fortuna fell back into a zone and we had three or four good shooters on the court,” Clifton said. “They were doubling up top and we kept getting the ball to Payten in either corner and she was drilling them. I don’t think she is used to getting such wide open shots.”

Bella Stone provided a spark off the bench for the Warriors with 12 points, while fellow freshman Jadence Clifton poured in 10 points to go along with seven assists.

Kaleya Sanchez added eight points and 13 rebounds to finish two points away from a double double.

With the win Del Norte improves to 9-5 overall this season and 1-0 in the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 standings. The Warriors will be back in action on Friday against five-time Big 5 champion Arcata in Thunen Gym for Del Norte’s homecoming game.

“Friday night is going to be a good one,” Clifton said. “We have to play our best game. It is going to be homecoming and that place is going to be packed. Arcata is a good team. We are going to run and we will see if they can run. I know they like to press and scramble — they are all over the place.”

The Del Norte-Arcata girls game will tip off at about 6 p.m. Friday.