The Del Norte girls basketball team is off to a 2-0 start this season as it heads into the championship game of the Yreka Invitational at 5:30 p.m. today.

The Warriors kicked off the tournament with a lopsided 67-28 victory over Modoc before picking up a tightly contested 45-41 win over Crater in the semifinals.

Del Norte officially opened its 2018-19 season on Thursday against Modoc and managed to pick up a fairly comfortable victory over the Braves.

“It was good to get the first game out of the way,” said Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton. “Modoc was struggling because they didn’t have a lot of size and they were struggling to guard us. We were able to use our size. We struggled to figure out their defense a little bit, but after the first quarter we got it worked out and we just exploded.”

Senior captain Kaleya Sanchez led Del Norte in scoring and nearly matched the output of the entire Modoc team with 26 points on Thursday.

“Sanchez went off. She was the beneficiary of a lot of fast break layups,” Clifton said. “We got a lot of steals. I still have to go over the game film to see how many we had, but Bella (Stone) and Daniela Zepeda were just getting steals left and right.”

Clifton said starting guard Jadence Clifton sat out of the game, but fellow sophomores Stone and Zepeda picked up the slack and made if difficult for Modoc to bring the ball up the court all day long.

Stone finished with 11 points in the game, while Zepeda chipped in with 7 points.

Senior captain Denise Horton chipped in 9 points for the Warriors on Thursday, but Clifton said she was much more important to the offense than the stats alone indicate.

“Denise did a great job too,” he said. “You can look at the book and see that Kaleya scored 26 points, but Denise is demanding a double team every time. So those two were playing excellent together.”

Friday’s semifinal match up against Crater was a much more competitive affair than the first round.

“It was a lot better opponent, and a back and forth game,” Clifton said.

Clifton said the Warriors managed to build a game-high 8-point lead, but by the end of the third quarter the Comets had battled their way back ahead.

Del Norte retook the lead in the fourth quarter and managed to hold on down the stretch, winning 45-41, despite some struggles at the foul line.

Clifton estimated that the Warriors ended up going 2-for-10 down the stretch on Friday, including missing six in a row while in the double bonus on three straight trips down the court.

Although Del Norte made things interesting with missed free throws, Clifton said the Warriors managed to hold onto the lead late thanks to some superb defense down the stretch.

“The defense played it strong and held on for us,” Clifton said. “Daniela Zepeda took a massive charge down the stretch that really turned the tide of the entire game. We just need to make our free throws. Free throws are usually going to win those tight games but we got lucky because we got five stops in a row.”

Although Del Norte struggled to score down the stretch, Clifton said the Warriors shot the ball fairly well early in the game against Crater. Clifton also said that the team’s ball movement has been strong so far in Yreka.

“We were getting a lot of assists,” Clifton said. “I still have to watch the game film to get the exact stats, but there are definitely a lot more assists this year than last year, and there is a lot more sharing of the basketball.”

Clifton said he hasn’t yet compiled official stats, but Sanchez, Horton, Stone and Zepeda all played well again against Crater. Clifton was also proud of the performance from the players off the bench through the first two games.

“We have a young bench, but they are all defensively sound,” he said.

Del Norte will take on the winner of Friday’s other semifinal game between Yreka and Brookings in the championship game of the Yreka Invitational with tipoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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