The Del Norte girls basketball team clamped down defensively on Eureka from the opening whistle in a battle between the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 last unbeaten teams and the Warriors pulled away from the Loggers throughout the first half on its way to a blow out 48-21 win in Thunen Gym, Wednesday night in Crescent City..
Del Norte’s defense held Eureka without a basket for the first 11 minutes of the game, spanning the entire first quarter and the first 3:17 of the second quarter. The Warriors, meanwhile, had already built a 17-0 lead by the time Paige Lyons used a back door screen to pick up an easy layup for the Loggers first points.
“Our sophomores played great tonight, our seniors played great tonight and our bench played great tonight,” Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton said. “The girls were definitely pumped. They came out and they played hard. They set the tone right of the bat by not letting them score in the first quarter, and only giving up four points in the first half. It was just a great effort defensively. Their two big dogs barely scored — (Makaila Napoleon had four points, and then (Dorshada) Wesson) only had four points too. We held them way under their averages.”
Clifton said Del Norte didn’t do much defensively that they haven’t shown already this season. It was just the team’s overall intensity on that end of the floor that made the difference.
“We just played defense,” Clifton said. “We just played regular man defense. Kaleya Sanchez has been playing against Napoleon for four years, so she knows her. Kaleya is a great player, and Danny Zepeda stepped up and did great against Wesson. When the girls do their jobs we are going to be hard to beat.”
Offensively, the Warriors managed to stretch out the Loggers’ zone defense with some solid outside shooting. Del Norte finished the game with four 3-pointers to go along with a bevy of long 2-pointers and mid-range shots.
“I absolutely love it when teams come out and they play zone on us,” Clifton said. “I know right then that we have the advantage. Usually teams don’t play zone against a team that has shooters, but teams keep doing it. We hit a lot of outside shots tonight.”
Del Norte held a 28-4 lead going into halftime and Eureka never pulled closer than 16 points throughout the second half. Clifton said his team’s intensity waned a little bit after halftime, especially on the defensive glass.
“It is hard to carry over into the second half when the other team doesn’t score with you,” Clifton said. “We should have played a little bit better in the second half, honestly. We should have rebounded better. We lost the rebounding battle, and that was mainly in the second half.”
Del Norte was led by Jadence Clifton who tallied 17 points in the victory. Bella Stone added 9 points, while Sanchez and Selene Ledezma chipped in eight points apiece for the Warriors.
It was the first start in the high school career of Ledezma, and Clifton said she played well in the starting lineup, and throughout the night.
“Selene Ledezma played great tonight,” Clifton said. “She was asked to start tonight because of her quickness and she was rebounding pretty well. She is starting to get a little tougher, which is what we need out of her. She also hit a couple shots and she didn’t miss a free throw. That was awesome for her first varsity start.”
With the win, Del Norte improves to 15-2 overall this season and stays undefeated in Big 5 play at 4-0, moving into sole possession of first place as the Warriors reach the halfway point in league play.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go. It is the Big 5, you never know. It is good to be the front runner halfway through league,” Clifton said. “I’m proud of these girls moving forward. We have to keep that intensity level up because 7-1 doesn’t win league — 7-1 shares the league and 8-0 will win this league. We have a long ways to go before we play them in their house in the last game of the league. We just have to do out job.”
Del Norte has nearly a full week off before returning to action. The Warriors will host Fortuna on Tuesday, starting at 7:30 p.m., to kick off the second half of Big 5 play.
Clifton said Del Norte will use the extra practices to add some new looks to its arsenal for the stretch run.
“We will switch everything up,” Clifton said. “The second time you play these teams you don’t want to do the same thing. We still know how to play this way, but we will put in some different wrinkles and different strategies. We are on the road to make history, that is the bottom line.”