The Del Norte girls basketball team suffered its first loss of the season in a back and forth 43-38 contest against Montgomery in the first round of the Winsor Tournament, but the Warriors bounced back with a lopsided 54-16 win over Rincon Valley Christian to improve to 5-1 overall this season ahead of today’s consolation championship game.

“They were down a couple girls with injuries and they had a couple freshmen starting,” Clifton said of Rincon Valley. “If they get it together in practice they could be a pretty decent Division V team, but they just couldn’t match up with us. It is one of those games that is good to have after a loss, but tomorrow we have a big test against a Division I team — Napa.”

Del Norte opened the Winsor Tournament on Thursday against Montgomery and the Warriors suffered their first loss of the season in a close 43-38 contest.

“They are a good team,” Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton said of Montgomery. “Their coach was telling me that they come in second place almost every year down here to Cardinal Newman, who is the power down here.”

Del Norte got off to a quick start against Montgomery as the Warrior starters pestered the Vikings ball handlers en route to a 12-3 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

“We were playing great defense,” Clifton said. “The biggest advantage that we had on the court was when Bella (Stone) and Jadence (Clifton) were on the floor together, Montgomery’s two guards couldn’t stop them. We were getting a lot of transition points, and we really didn’t run much offense in the first quarter. We scored a lot of transition points.”

The second quarter was all Montgomery, however, as the Vikings went on a 17-2 run to take a 20-15 the lead heading into halftime.

Clifton said Stone got in foul trouble, which limited the Warriors fast break opportunities in the second quarter. Although Del Norte managed to get some good looks with its half court offense, it wasn’t able to get those shots to fall.

“For whatever reason we could not put the ball in the basket,” Clifton said. “We were getting pretty good looks when we slowed it down and ran our offense, but the looks we were getting we were just missing.”

Clifton said the Warriors managed to rebound defensively in the third quarter, and managed to climb back in front heading into a fourth quarter that ended up being close until the final buzzer.

Clifton said Del Norte had a chance to put the game away with about three minutes left in the game and a one-point lead.

Del Norte drew a foul inside on the play and was awarded two free throws, before a dead ball technical foul against Montgomery gave the Warriors two more free throws and the ball back. Del Norte drew a foul on the ensuing possession as well to make it six straight free throws in the possession, but Del Norte only made one of those free throws to edge its lead up to two points.

The Warriors finished the game going 13-of-23 at the free throw line, but Clifton said Del Norte seemed to miss most of its shots from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.

“We could not make a free throw, and I just don’t get it because in practice we hit out free throws,” Clifton said. “We just have to spend more time on free throws.”

The one exception for the Warriors was senior Kaleya Sanchez, who went a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line as she scored a team-high 16 points. Sanchez was joined in double digits by Jadence Clifton with 10 points.

Dennise Horton and Stone both chipped in five points apiece against Montgomery.

“The difference in the game was that we had more turnovers than them,” Clifton said. “We played pretty good defense and had quite a few steals as well, especially in the first and fourth quarters. We played pretty good defense in the third quarter too, but the second quarter just didn’t go well.”

On Friday Del Norte had a much easier matchup against a young an injury plagued team from Rincon Valley Christian.

“We just had a more experienced back court and front court,” Clifton said. “We started off a little bit slow and lead 8-6 at the end of the first quarter, but we buckled down in the second quarter and went on a 12-0 run.”

After opening up a lead in the second quarter, Del Norte continued to pull away after halftime. Clifton said the Warriors outscored the Eagles 19-4 in the third quarter, and 15-6 in the fourth quarter with its starters sitting for nearly the entire final period.

“We got everybody in that wanted to go in,” Clifton said. “It was a good bounce back game for us.”

With the win on Friday, Del Norte advances to take on Napa with tipoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in Winsor.

Clifton said Napa, a North Coast Section Division I team, should be anther tough test for the Warriors.

“They are a good team, but they don’t have much height at all,” Clifton said. “It is going to be a fun test for us to play against a bunch of guards. They are going to try to play uptempo, so we want to get them out of their comfort zone the best that we can. We want to slow the game down, use our bigs, and go from there. If we can get the ball inside we should be fine. They have really good and quick guards though that press the whole game, and they get a shot up in about 10 seconds.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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