The Del Norte boys basketball team came away from their toughest regular season tournament of the year with a third place finish. The Warriors narrowly missed out on an opportunity to advance to the championship game of the Oregon Holiday Hoopfest in Bend, Oregon, but they were able to bounce back for a win over host Summit High School to finish 2-1 in the tournament.

After a comfortable win over Grants Pass on Thursday, Del Norte ran into a talented La Center team from Washington in the semifinals on Friday. The Warriors jumped all over the Wildcats early, but La Center completed a furious comeback down the stretch to pull out a 58-55 win over Del Norte.

“La Center was a really good team,” said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez. “We played really well for about three and a half quarters, but then just all of the sudden couldn’t make a shot. They got hot and started we just couldn’t hit hat shot that we need to break their run. Nobody was trying to miss them, it was just that all of the sudden we couldn’t hit one. We also had a couple costly turnovers down the stretch that really hurt us.”

After a string of slow starts to games, the Warriors came out of the starting blocks red hot and built their lead as high as 18 points in the first half.

“We played about as well as we can play,” Lopez said. “They missed a few shots early and we did make our shots early. Just before halftime we had a chance to be ahead by 20 but we had three turnovers in a row and they cut it to 12. In a three point game that might not have seemed like a lot at the time, but it is the difference in the game. We have to take better care of the basketball.”

Del Norte held onto its lead through the third quarter and late into the fourth, before turnovers once again cost the Warriors some points. Lopez said the team also missed a lot of wide open shots that they had been hitting all night.

“Hopefully we learned that if we can take care of the ball, play hard, and do the things that we are capable of doing then we can be competitive,” Lopez said. “Now we have to learn how to win that game. That is a game that we definitely could have won.”

La Center went on to win the Oregon Holiday Hoopfest with a 70-64 win over Seattle Academy in the championship game.

The loss dropped Del Norte into the third place game on Saturday where they ran into host Summit. Although Lopez said the Warriors weren’t quite as sharp as they were the day before, Del Norte managed to pull out a victory by about eight points over the Storm.

“We didn’t play as well as we did the day before, but it is kind of hard on the third day,” Lopez said. “Especially playing in the third place game when we know we let one get away from us the day before or we would be playing for a championship. I was proud of the boys though. They hung in there and down the stretch we made our free throws which helped us pull it out.”

In addition to taking better care of the ball, Lopez said the Warriors need to learn to play a little cleaner defense.

“We defended pretty well for the most part,” he said. “The one thing we have to stop doing is fouling though. We commit too many fouls. When we get a little bit tired we get kind of handsy. So we have to learn to move our feet and keep people in front of us without putting out hands on people. We did do a good job of taking charges, but sometimes we just reached out and put our hands on people.”

With the win, Del Norte improves to 10-3 overall this season with the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 league season coming up on Thursday.

The Warriors are scheduled to host Fortuna at about 7:30 p.m. in the Big 5 opener for both teams in a battle of two of the three teams that split the league championship last year.

Lopez said he feels good about how the Warriors have been playing recently, especially over the weekend.

“It was a step up in competition, so you hope that helps us,” Lopez said. “Fortuna is a team that is picked to win our league, and we have them right of the bat at home. It is definitley going to be a challenge. They have a really good group of kids coming through right now, and obviously they had a great football season too. It is definitely going to be a challenge. We are going to have to come out and play really well in order to give ourselves a chance.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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