The Del Norte girls basketball team finished off a clean sweep at the Hidden Valley Invitational with an impressive 49-23 victory over Banks on Saturday in the final day of the three-day round robin tournament.
Although the Warriors ended up with a comfortable 16-point victory, Banks was the highest rated team that Del Norte played in Grants Pass and featured the reigning Oregon Class 4A player of the year in 6-foot point guard Aspen Slifko.
“They stepped up to the challenge in the first quarter — they were pumped,” said Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton. “The gym was pretty full, even though there were no local teams there, and there were scouts there and the whole bit.”
Clifton said senior captain Kaleya Sanchez was key for the Warriors as they opened up a 13-point lead and held a 16-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Sanchez was given the assignment of guarding Slifko, and she held the Banks star scoreless through the first frame.
“We completely shut them down, but Sanchez ended up picking up two fouls,” Clifton said.
The game evened out a little bit in the second quarter, and Banks pulled back within single digits after Sanchez had to go to the bench with three fouls.
During an emotional halftime break, the Warriors lost senior forward Dennise Horton for the second half.
“In the second half Dennise did not play due to disciplinary reasons,” Clifton said.
Despite holding a 23-14 lead at halftime, Del Norte faced some significant adversity early in the third quarter. Sanchez came back into the game but picked up her fourth foul in the first 30 seconds of play and had to go straight back to the bench.
“I called a time out and you could see that the girls were like, ‘Oh no, what do we do,’” Clifton said. “But we regrouped and Bella (Stone) and Jadence (Clifton) just took over.”
Justin Clifton said Banks had a significant size advantage with their guards, but the Warriors were able to spread them out and beat them with their quickness of the dribble as they outscored Banks 18-0 while Sanchez sat out.
Jadence Clifton was the main beneficiary of the isolation offense with 13 of her game-high 19 points coming in the third quarter.
The Warriors also got plenty of important contributions from their bench throughout the game.
“My bench played phenomenally,” Clifton said. “Whenever they came into the game they stepped up to the challenge. You couldn’t tell if it was the starters or the bench in there because no matter who was in, all of a sudden we were flowing.”
Clifton was particularly proud of how the team responded to playing without either of their two senior captains for nearly the entire third quarter against a talented team.
“We learned how to stick together as a team and how to come together as a team,” Clifton said. “They saw Kaleya get called for her fourth foul early in the third quarter and it was a ballgame still. They came together, picked it up and fought. Not only did they maintain the lead, but they extended the lead. I thought it was great, the way that they came together. When Kaleya came back in it was just the nail in the coffin.”
Sanchez finished with 9 points for Del Norte, while Stone chipped in 7.
With the win, the Warriors improve to 9-1 for the season. The Warriors will be back in action on Wednesday with a road game just up the coast against Brookings-Harbor.
“Right now we have a little bit of a situation we have to deal with in-house, but we will be fine,” Clifton said. “The girls are pumped right now. The bottom line is that integrity and the chemistry of the team comes first — I don’t care how good of a player that you are.
“With that being said, we have great chemistry going on right now, and there is a lot of excitement.”
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .