The Del Norte girls basketball team built up a big lead over host Yreka on Saturday in the championship game of the Yreka Invitational and the Warriors were able to hold on for a 55-44 win, despite some hot shooting down the stretch by the Miners.

Although the Warriors are off to a 3-0 start to the season, head coach Justin Clifton thought the Del Norte girls were a little bit lackadaisical on the last day of the three-day competition.

“I don’t know if it was because we beat them so big last year, but we didn’t really show up to play,” Clifton said. “We got out to a 16-point lead and it was like we were on cruise control the whole time. There was just some lazy play going on, and we can’t do that because our next seven games will be really tough.”

The Warriors had to overcome the loss of senior captain Kaleya Sanchez, who left the game in the second quarter with back spasms and did not return.

When she left the game, Sanchez had a team-high 12 points, including 10 points in the first quarter.

Clifton said Sanchez was a dominant force all tournament long for the Warriors, and she was awarded the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award despite the injury in the championship game.

“Since I have been coaching Kaleya this is the best tournament I have seen our of her by far,” Clifton said. “Her shooting ability is much improved. Most of her points came off of jump shots, especially in the Crater game. Last year she didn’t have a lot of jump shots, she mostly scored on putbacks. We have all kinds of dimensions that we can use her in.”

Sophomore Bella Stone was named the offensive player of the tournament. Senior captain Dennise Horton, who scored a game-high 18 points in the championship game, was named the defensive player of the tournament.

“With that being said, Daniela Zepeda and Maykala Jackson played great,” Clifton said. “Really the whole bench played great, but those two really stood out. Danny has really taken on that starting role when we go small, playing the three spot, and she is looking great.”

Clifton said he expects to see a steep increase in the level of competition for his team over its next seven games, starting with a road game today against Hidden Valley in Grants Pass.

“It will be a really good test,” Clifton said. “We will have to get used to the Oregon rules a little bit, but we will see where we are at.”

After today’s game, the Warriors will head to a tough three-day tournament in Windsor starting with a game against Mongomery on Thursday. Del Norte will follow that up with a difficult round robin bracket back at Hidden Valley High School on Dec. 13–15.

“We could go 0-7 in these next games, or we could go .500,” Clifton said. “My goal is to get this team ready for the league.”

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