For the first time in a long time Ron Thunen Gymnasium will play host to a North Coast Section Division IV tournament double header on Wednesday as both the Del Norte boys and girls basketball teams were awarded first round home games to kick off the playoffs.
“To my knowledge this is the first time (both teams have hosted NCS games at home),” said Del Norte boys head coach Blaine Lopez.
The Warrior boys received the No. 7 seed in Division IV and will kick off a night of basketball in Crescent City at 5:30 p.m. against No. 10 Middletown. The Del Norte girls were named the No. 2 seed for the tournament and are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. against No. 15 Gateway.
After Friday’s win in the Niclai Tournament, Del Norte girls head coach Justin Clifton said he thought the Warriors would have a good chance at grabbing the tournament’s top seed. But that was before St. Patrick-St. Vincent knocked off a Salesian team that is ranked in the top 25 in the nation for the Tri-County Rock League tournament championship.
“That was a great game, but they came through and they beat them,” Clifton said. “I had to have my rankings in early, but if I had to re-do my rankings after that game I would have put them No. 1. The path doesn’t matter though, you still have to win.
“I am actually excited about the No. 2 seed. It looks pretty good, but we still have to win. As I was thinking about it, I really didn’t want a bye because we just don’t want a week off. We want to play.”
Del Norte will kick off the NCS Tournament against a Gateway team that is still somewhat of a mystery.
“I don’t know anything about Gateway,” Clifton said. “They are from San Fransisco and they play different teams than we play. I’m trying to get some film, but nobody really knows who they are. It may work the other way too — they may not have anything on us either. They are going to have to travel all the way up here though.”
Gateway comes into the tournament with an 11-17 overall record, but the Gators went 7-5 in the Bay Counties Central league to take third place this year.
“The bottom line is we just need to play our game and we will go from there,” Clifton said. “It should be a packed house.”
Clifton said Del Norte is excited about a potential rematch against No. 3 Marin Catholic, who knocked the Warriors out of the NCS quarterfinals last year. If both teams win their first two games of the tournament they would meet in the semifinals.
The teams ultimate goals go even further than avenging last year’s loss, however.
“We want to win it, that is our No. 1 goal,” Clifton said. “Everybody talks about how if you make the semifinals you qualify for state, but we don’t care about all that — we want to win our section. The state tournament is down the road, I’m just worried about Wednesday’s game because weirder things have happened. It is not like it would be the first time ever that a 15 seed has knocked off a 2.
“So we are trying not to look ahead, and just take it one game at a time. Our goal at the beginning of the year was to play into March though, and we are sticking to our goals.”
The Del Norte boys team received the No. 7 seed in the Division IV Tournament, which was about where they expected to be following the Niclai Tournament last Friday.
“I thought we would be six or seven, but I thought we would be seven,” Lopez said. “That means we get the 10-seed and it is Middletown. It is the playoffs, so everybody is good. You don’t get in there for no reason. Hopefully we will come out, play well and give ourselves a chance to win. It is obviously nice being at home.”
The Warriors are excited to be at home for the first round of the playoffs, forcing Middletown to make the 300 mile trek north for the game.
“Usually it is us doing the traveling, so it is nice that it is somebody else this time,” Lopez said. “Obviously we like playing in front of our home crowd, and the guys get to eat at home and sleep at home. That obviously helps. Hopefully we can come out and play well.”
Wednesday game should provide an interesting clash in styles as the guard heavy Warriors match up against a big Middletown squad.
“They are big,” Lopez said. “They have three or four big kids, so we will have to work hard defending the post because they will probably try to get the ball inside. We will also probably try to put some pressure on the ball to make it tough for them to get into some of their stuff.”
Lopez said the team doesn’t have any specific goals for where it would like to finish in the tournament. Instead the Warriors are hoping to put their best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may.
“It is all icing on the cake now,” Lopez said. “We ended up second in league, which obviously wasn’t were we wanted to be, but it is where we ended up and we earned the right to play in the tournament. It sounds weird, and maybe cliche, but I just want to play well. I think if we play well we will give ourselves a chance to win. The goal isn’t really about winning or losing right now. We want to play well and hopefully give ourselves a chance to win.”
If the Warriors pick up a first round victory and Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 Champion Fortuna, the No. 2 seed, does the same against No. 15 Fort Bragg then Del Norte would find itself taking on the Huskies for the fourth time this season in the quarterfinal round on Saturday.
“We are not even thinking about that right now, we want to win on Wednesday night,” Lopez said. “Our focus is on Middletown. We have to try to take care of our home court on Wednesday and then we can worry about what happens next. Hopefully we are worried about Fortuna on Wednesday night or Thursday morning. That is a bonus.”
Warrior fans should note that no passes will be accepted for the NCS Playoff games, and the back parking lot will be closed. Admission will be $10 for adults, and $6 for students and seniors.
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .