The Del Norte boys basketball team got off to a slow start on the road in Eureka on Tuesday, but bounced back with a strong performance in the second quarter that propelled the Warriors to a comfortable 59-43 victory over Eureka to grab sole possession of second place in the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 standings.
“A win on the road is a win on the road, especially for us,” said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez. “We are in a unique situation where it is at least an hour and a half to get to everywhere that we go. Everybody else is pretty close. So road wins are big for us.”
Even so, Lopez though his Warriors could have gotten off to a better start in Eureka.
“We came out flat. We didn’t play very well in the first quarter, but we picked it up in the second quarter and played quite a bit better and build up a bit of a lead,” Lopez said. “We did the same thing in the second half though. We turned the ball over in four out of the first five possessions. It is just stuff that we just can’t do. We definitely didn’t play as well as we did against McKinleyville last week, but again, we will take the win any time we can get it.”
Del Norte was dominated on the boards in the first few minutes of the game, as the larger Logger squad snared at least six offensive rebounds through the first three minutes of play. While Eureka had an obvious height advantage in the paint, that is nothing new for the undersized Warriors.
“We have got to box out, that is the first thing. Then it is all about effort,” Lopez said. “You have to want to go get it, and they wanted it more than us in the first quarter. That is something that I thought we had corrected, because we haven’t done that in a while, but give them credit. Eureka came out ready to go and they kind of took it too us early. Thank goodness we were able to take that punch, counter, and get back into it. We played pretty well in the second quarter.”
After the first three minutes Del Norte buckled down on the defensive glass and only allowed one more offensive rebound in the first quarter, and just two more in the final three quarters.
Still, the Loggers managed to continue to build on a slim early lead in the first quarter, reaching as high as five points at 15-10, thanks largely to fast break points.
“In the first quarter we gave up six or eight points in transition and that is inexcusable,” Lopez said. “We work too hard on that kind of stuff for that to happen.”
The Warriors were able to finish the first quarter on a 4-0 run to pull within 15-14 at the break, and continued its strong play throughout the second quarter, outscoring Eureka 18-8 in the period to go ahead 32-23 at halftime.
“I think we just decided that we had better go rebound because they were kicking out butts,” Lopez said. “I think that was probably the biggest difference in the second quarter — we didn’t give up any fast break points, and I don’t know if we gave up any offensive rebounds.”
The Warriors lead grew to 11 points before the start of the second half after Omar Banuelos sank a pair of free throws awarded to Del Norte after an administrative technical was called against Eureka due to a mistake on its official roster for the game.
Although the Loggers were never able to pull back within single digits, Del Norte struggled at the start of the second half, particularly with ball security. The Warriors turned the ball over on four of its first five possessions of the second half. Fortunately for Del Norte, Eureka only managed to score two points off of those turnovers.
“I don’t know what happened,” Lopez said. “We were just making very silly mistakes, stuff that we haven’t done in a while. Thank goodness we defended well, especially in the second quarter. I was hoping we were over the slow starts in the beginning of the game and the second half. We just can’t turn the ball over like that.”
Midway through the third quarter Del Norte started taking better care of the basketball, and promptly went on a 10-0 run that expanded its lead to 21 points at 46-25 and the Loggers were never able to seriously threaten the Warriors again.
Ethan Price was Del Norte’s top scorer in Eureka, finishing with a game-high 18 points. Omar Banuelos and Judah Robinson both added 13 points apiece, while Robinson was unofficially the Warriors leading rebounder in the game.
In all, eight of the 10 players on Del Norte’s roster finished with at least a bucket. Anthony Slayton scored six points and Kobe Mitchell scored 3. Damien Dowd, Kaleb Price, and Eli Larson all chipped in with two points apiece.
With the win, the Warriors reach the midway point of the HDN Big 5 season with a 3-1 record after playing each team once. Del Norte is 14-4 overall.
Del Norte has the rest of the week off before it heads back out on the road to take on Fortuna in a battle of the top two teams in the Big 5 standings. The Huskies are off to a 4-0 start in league play and a 19-1 record overall. They are currently the No. 2 ranked team in the North Coast Section Division IV according to maxpreps.com’s playoff prediction model.
Fortuna beat Del Norte 61-46 in Crescent City in the first league game of the season for both teams.
“We have Fortuna next, who is obviously the best team in the league,” Lopez said. “They have proven that through the first half of league, and actually throughout the whole year. We have got to have a good week — and that isn’t even a guarantee of anything. Fortuna is a really tough place to play.
“It is dark and dingy and their student section is great so it is going to be loud. It is a great environment, don’t get me wrong, I love going down there, but it is a tough place to win. We can’t start like we did (on Tuesday) or it will be over at halftime. So hopefully we can get ready and make sure that we come out prepared.”
Del Norte and Fortuna are scheduled to tip off on Wednesday, starting at 7:30 p.m.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .