The Del Norte girls basketball team is through to the North Coast Section Division IV semifinals for the first time in school history after picking up a comfortable 59-42 home win on Saturday over No. 7 Urban in the quarterfinal matchup in Crescent City.
The No. 2 seeded Warriors bounded out to a 6-0 lead in the first 1:08 of play and never trailed against a scrappy Blues team.
“They thought they would trick us by switching back and forth from man and zone, but it doesn’t work,” said Del Norte head coach Justin Clifton. “They didn’t scout us at all, because they had no idea who Kaleya Sanchez was. If you don’t do your homework you aren’t going to pass. That is what it comes down to. They thought they would come out here and just fire threes all day long, but we got their girls in foul trouble by taking charges and we took them out of their game plan.”
The Warriors started the game out strong offensively, scoring on each of their first four possessions. Del Norte senior Kaleya Sanchez got Del Norte going with an offensive rebound and a put back 18 seconds into the game, followed by a pair of free throws on the Warriors’ next possession. Selene Ledezma grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back up and in, followed by a three pointer by Bella Stone to wrap up a quick 9-2 run out of the gate.
Urban settled down a little bit and climbed back to within three points midway through the first quarter, but Del Norte responded by finishing the quarter on a 6-2 run to build its lead back up to 16-9 at the end of the opening period.
Defense took over early in the second quarter as both teams combined for just three field goals in the first four minutes, but Del Norte put together an 8-2 run in the final 3:07, kicked off by a three pointer from the corner by Kirsten Brous. The run left the Warriors with a 28-16 lead at halftime and the Blues were never able to pull back within single digits throughout the second half.
Urban put on a full court press against the Warriors for much of the game, but Del Norte was able to deal with the pressure fairly easily throughout the contest.
“I don’t think we had one turnover in the back court on their press,” Clifton said. “I personally think that we have the best two-guard combo in our whole section. I know that St. Patrick-St. Vincent has one unbelievable point guard but we have two basically.”
Sanchez led Del Norte with 25 points in the game, followed by Stone with 18. Brous finished with eight points, including a pair of three-pointers.
“The bottom line is we play defense. They had a good little point guard (Rain Sheh) so we threw three different girls at her, but she played well and went over 20 points easily,” Clifton said. “Offensively Jadence (Clifton) was off, but Bella stepped it up, Kaleya stepped it up and Kirsten hit a couple too — everybody just steps it up. That is just how these girls are. One girl will have an off night and the other girls will step up and have big nights.”
With the win Del Norte improves to 23-2 overall this season.
“I want to say thank you to everybody that did come out in the rain and everything,” Clifton said. That was a pretty big crowd for a Saturday. The girls appreciate it, and we appreciate the band showing up — that is pretty awesome.”
The Warriors now move on to Wednesday’s NCS semifinal round where they will take on No. 6 Lick-Wilmerding. The Tigers picked up a road win in the quarterfinals with a 56-49 win over No. 3 Marin Catholic on Saturday. Last season Del Norte, then a No. 5 seed, traveled to then-No. 12 Lick-Wilmerding for a 56-41 victory in the first round of the NCS Division IV playoffs. This year the Warriors and Tigers will square off for a chance to play in the section championship game.
“We played them last year and they were super young, but we were pretty young last year too. They are all coming back though,” Clifton said.
By reaching the semifinals, Del Norte also qualifies to compete in the California Interscholastic Federation State Tournament which will re-classify and reseed teams following the various section tournaments.
“The good thing is that we get two more games no matter what now,” Clifton said. “We are going to get a state game and we are going to get a chance to play to go to the section championship. It is pretty exciting. In basketball this is the first time ever for girls and the last time (Del Norte has) been there was back when I played. It is pretty cool to be playing to go to the championship. We have a great opportunity and we need to take advantage of it. I promise you we will be ready. These girls are pumped and I encourage the community to come out and get here early to get a seat because it is going to be packed.”