The Del Norte boys junior varsity basketball team officially wrapped up an undefeated Humboldt-Del Norte League season last week with a win on the road over the only team that had beaten it all season — Eureka.
The Warriors had an impressive run in the 2017-18 season, finishing 17-1 overall this season.
“We kind of dominated our competition at the defensive end,” said Del Norte JV head coach Marc Slayton. “We averaged giving up about 35 points per game in the league. We weren’t the best shooting team, we weren’t the best at rebounding, but as a group we were the most dominant group defensively, that is for sure.
“We played strictly a man to man defense and we got after people. They had to make plays against us. The best thing was that the teammates counted on each other. When one person rotated over another dropped down and covered. We were just a tough team to score on. Then we didn’t turn it over much and we were able to rebound to usually limit them to one shot.”
Although opponents knew Del Norte was going to play tough defense, Slayton said it was difficult for them to identify a key player for the Warriors on offense, where several different players combined to carry the lead throughout the season.
“We were led in scoring by four or five different people on any given night,” Slayton said. “They were just a great group of kids that played as a team. When they were at their best, they were making the extra pass, and they were able to compete on a nightly basis.”
Like the Del Norte varsity team this season, the Warrior JV team has just one player over 6 feet tall, but the team was stacked with guards ready to ratchet up the defensive pressure.
“We compete on every possession, and that was kind of the makeup of this team,” Slayton said. “They just never gave up, they competed, and they made teams have to beat them.”
Del Norte opened its season at the Fortuna Tournament, where the Warriors lost to Eureka in the championship game. Del Norte was able to turn it around and beat Eureka in the championship game of the St. Bernard’s Tournament a couple weeks later, however, and hasn’t lost since. Del Norte also swept the Loggers in both meetings during league play to finish the season 3-1 against the only team that was able to beat them.
Although Eureka was the only team to hand Del Norte a loss this season, Arcata gave the Warriors their toughest competition in league play.
“Our best game of the year by far was our win at Arcata,” Slayton said. “It was a double overtime game that we won 39-37. Arcata is really good and it was a struggle all night offensively for both teams. We managed to make a couple free throws down the stretch and got a turnover to win the game in the second overtime. It was competitive, it was a challenge and it was fun for the kids because we really had to compete.”
Slayton noted that the Warriors comfortably beat the Tigers by double digits when the teams met a month later in Crescent City.
“They got better all year,” Slayton said. “They were smart and picked up on things and they got along on the court. They were just one of those teams that came to practice every day and practiced hard. I can count the number of times that they needed extra motivation this year on one hand.”
The junior varsity basketball season was also the first time that Del Norte fans have had the chance to see sophomore Scott Peters in action in over a year. Peters was injured midway through the soccer season in the fall of his freshman year with a serious knee injury, which sidelined him for about 14 months. The sophomore was officially cleared to participate in athletics in January after practicing with the basketball team all season.
With just one freshman and nine sophomores on the junior varsity team full time, most of Del Norte’s JV squad will move up to the varsity ranks next season if they wish to continue playing basketball.
“You hope to see them do well. I wish them the best of luck,” Slayton said. “But if they decide to move on and play basketball the whole group needs to work on their game, and continue to get bigger and stronger. It is a whole different level to compete at, so they will have to take that challenge on.”
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .