The Del Norte boys basketball team kicked off its season with only half of the players that it expects to remain on the varsity roster when the Warriors from the football team are finally able to play. Although shorthanded, Del Norte managed to pull out a 53-44 victory over University Prep in the first round of the Yreka Invitational before falling 57-39 against a talented Mt. Shasta team in the semifinal round.

Del Norte will wrap up its trip to Yreka today in the third place game against the loser of the other semifinal game between Weed and Yreka. That game concluded after the Triplicate went to press on Friday.

Although missing a little over half of its expected varsity team, Del Norte got off to a strong start in their season opener against University Prep.

“There was a lot of typical first-game stuff,” Lopez said. “We had some really good spurts, and we had some moments where we weren’t so good. The one thing that I really liked is that the kids played really hard. I was really proud of their effort. Some of those young guys that had to play in their first varsity game stepped up and helped out. That was really nice to see.”

Lopez said that the Warriors’ five upperclassmen, all of whom will remain on the varsity team throughout the season, played the bulk of the minutes for the team, but the younger players stepped up well when needed.

“It wasn’t even about the amount of minutes — they had to play some critical minutes,” Lopez said. “That was good for them.”

Lopez said the Warriors stuggled with fouls and turnovers at times, but he though the team’s defense was the key to grabbing a win in the season opener.

“I thought we did a pretty good job defensively for the most part,” Lopez said. “We had a few breakdowns, but that is pretty typical early season stuff. We also have a lot of guys that are not 100 percent familiar with the system, but they were working their tails off. Overall the effort was really good.”

Lopez thought the Warriors continued to play with a lot of effort in the semifinals against Mt. Shasta, but Del Norte struggled to keep up with a talented and tall squad that is already at full strength.

“They are a really good team, and we couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” Lopez said of Friday’s loss. “They sat back in a zone and we just couldn’t hit any shots. We got a lot of open looks, but we only made three field goals in the first half. It just wouldn’t go in.”

Lopez said he was pleased with the way the offense operated, and players were taking good, high-quality shots. They just didn’t quite translate into points.

“We got really good looks and a bunch of them went in and out,” Lopez said. “They were right there, it was just one of those nights where the ball did not want to go in the basket.”

Meanwhile the Warriors turned in another strong defensive performance, but Mt. Shasta countered with some good shooting.

“We weren’t terrible defensively,” Lopez said. “They made some tough, tough shots. They have a couple guards that are really pretty good, and they made some shots with us draped all over them. We had some lapses on defense too, obviously, because we have a lot of young guys with us. But for the most part we were where we were supposed to be, but they made some tough shots.”

Lopez said Mt. Shasta also took advantage of its significant size advantage in the paint against Del Norte, and got some extra possessions thanks to rebounding.

Del Norte will be back in action today, taking on the loser of the other semifinal game between Weed and Yreka. That game finished after the Triplicate went to press on Friday. The third-place game is scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m.

Although unsure exactly who the Warriors would be playing, Lopez said he expects that the Warriors are going to have to have some shots fall on Saturday if it wants to finish in third place.

“I think whoever we play tomorrow is probably going to try to play zone against us, too, so we are going to have to make some shots,” he said.