The Del Norte boys basketball team fell behind early in its Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 opener under a barrage of three-pointers by Fortuna. The Huskies got off to a hot start from long range and stayed hot, finishing with a total of 13 three-pointers en route to a 61-46 road win over Del Norte in Crescent City on Thursday.
“I thought we played as hard as we could play,” said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez. “We just got beat. That is just the way that it works. They are good — they aren’t ranked No. 1 in the section for no reason.”
In a battle between two of the three reigning Big 5 co-champions the Warriors scored the opening points on a three-pointer by junior Omar Banuelos. After that, Fortuna took over.
The Huskies hit five three-pointers in the opening period en route to a 17-7 lead and stayed in front of Del Norte for the rest of the game thanks in large part to continued hot shooting by Fortuna throughout the game.
Lopez said the Warriors worked on taking away the three point line in practice this week, expecting the Huskies to want to hoist up shots from outside. Even with the extra emphasis, however, Fortuna still scored most of its points from behind the three-point arch.
“Defensively, the one thing that I was disappointed in is that we talked all week about how we are not going to let them shoot stand-still threes. We have to make them do other things,” Lopez said. “I thought there were at least a handful of times where we didn’t do that, and give them credit because they made us pay when we didn’t do it.”
The Huskies continued to stay hot early in the second quarter with a quick 7-2 run out of the gates to push its lead to 15 at 24-9 just two minutes into the quarter.
Del Norte senior Nolan O’Kelly halted the Fortuna run with a three-pointer for the Warriors and Ethan Price pulled Del Norte back within seven points, finishing an 8-0 run with another three-pointer and a nice post move to get Del Norte back into striking distance.
The rest of the half went back and fourth, however, and Fortuna held a 32-23 advantage at break.
“Against them especially you can’t miss easy shots and then give up a three at the other end,” Lopez said. “That is a five-point swing, and we had that happen at least two times in the first quarter and at least two times again in the second quarter. A nine-point game at half could easily have been a four-point game, and that is a big difference.”
Fortuna stayed hot early in the second half with a quick 8-2 run out of the gates, aided by a pair of three-pointers, to push its lead back to 15. But the Warriors once again made a push with an 11-0 run to climb back within four points with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
Banuelos knocked down a pair of three-pointers during the run, while the Warriors defense picked up with a steal each from Price and Judah Robinson that lead to easy transition baskets.
“I thought we did a good job of battling back, and got their lead down to four with the ball,” Lopez said. “We got a good look and missed, and they came down and hit a three — that is kind of the theme.”
After Del Norte battled back to within two possessions Fortuna had a quick answer with a three-pointer and a steal and layup to go back ahead by nine points before the Warriors and Huskies traded baskets to end the third quarter.
“We were able to get a couple stops, and we made some shots to get back in it,” Lopez said. “(Fortuna) is a really good team, so we can’t have empty possessions in a row. That is kind of what got us when they built their lead — we went three of four possessions without scoring. You just can’t do that against them because they are too good offensively.”
Fortuna’s Bradley Willis answered Del Norte’s run with a three-pointer, and a pair of layups by Donald Willis to close out the quarter set Fortuna back up with a nine-point lead heading into the final period.
Fortuna hit another three-pointer to start the fourth quarter and Del Norte was never able to pull back within single digits as the Huskies won pulling away.
“I thought our effort was good. We just got beat,” Lopez said. “Hopefully they understand that it is just one game, we have a long ways to go, and next week is an important week. We have to go back to work tomorrow. This is just one game.”
Banuelos led the Warriors in scoring with 18 points while Price chipped in 13. O’Kelly and Robinson tallied eight and seven points respectively for Del Norte.
Fortuna’s Drew Gillette led all scorers with 23 points, including five three-pointers. Bradley Willis scored 14 points including four three-pointers while Donald Willis scored 14 with three triples for the Huskies.
With the loss, Del Norte drops to 10-4 for the season while the Warriors are off to an 0-1 start in Big 5 play. The Warriors will be back in action on Tuesday, continuing league play with a road trip to Arcata. The Warriors and Tigers are scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m.
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .