The Del Norte boys basketball team just couldn’t overcome the juggernaut that is Fortuna this season.
The Warriors have been matched up with Fortuna four times over the last month and a half, but the Huskies have come out on top on each occasion, capped off with a 56-37 victory in the North Coast Section Division IV quarterfinals to officially bring Del Norte’s postseason to an end.
“We just picked a bad night to be bad,” said Del Norte head coach Blaine Lopez. “That is probably the worst that we have played in about a month, especially offensively. We definitely missed some easy shots, and we just didn’t execute very well. That is a bad combination. Neither team played great for sure, but they had so many points from the free throw line — that was probably the biggest difference.”
The Warriors were able to hold Fortuna to just 56 points in the game, the lowest point total so far in 2019 for the Huskies, and the teams third lowest scoring output of the season. Fortuna was especially effective at getting to the free throw line throughout the contest, however, where they went 20-of-35 for the game.
“I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part defensively, but we had too many fouls,” Lopez said. “They shot 35 free throws and that is too many and they had 20 points from the free throw line. You just can’t put them on the line that often.”
The first quarter of Saturday’s game was a slow-paced, foul-filled affair. Del Norte gave up nothing in the way of space for Fortuna’s shooters as the home team managed just 10 points in the first quarter and, after Del Norte’s Omar Baneulos hit a tricky layup plus a foul, trailed 12-10 to the Warriors heading into the second quarter.
“We had already started a little bit of a trend, I think it was seven fouls (by Del Norte) to one in the first quarter,” Lopez said. “So we were already trying to catch up there a little bit. But we did a good job defensively for the most part, other than the fouls, and we made a few baskets.”
Del Norte failed to hit a field goal for the entirety of the second quarter as its only four points in the period came from free throws.
Fortuna by no means returned to form offensively in the second either, but instead gleaned point after point at the line as Del Norte picked up its 10th team foul, sending Fortuna into the double-bonus, less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Near the end of the first half, after slowly amassing a lead during Del Norte’s scoring drought, the Huskies changed what would have been an 8-point halftime lead into a double-digit one in a hurry as Branson Gans connected on a layup with five seconds to play and, after Del Norte turned the ball over on an errant pass, Zac Claus found a wide-open Bradley Willis for a layup at the buzzer, giving the Huskies a 28-16 lead at halftime.
“We went about five and a half minutes without scoring a point, and you just can’t do that against this team, obviously,” Lopez said.
Del Norte succeeded in containing Fortuna in the opening three minutes of the third quarter, outscoring Fortuna 4-2 to get within 10 points, 30-20, just before the midway point of the period.
But Fortuna knocked down a couple more three-pointers to kick off a game-changing 17-2 during the latter portion of the third quarter and took a commanding 47-22 lead into the fourth.
Del Norte had seven different players score points in Fortuna, lead by senior Judah Robinson with 10 points.
With the loss, the Warriors season comes to a close with a 15-9 overall record, nearly half of those losses coming against the Huskies.
“Obviously it was nice to get into the playoffs, and it was nice to win a home playoff game,” Lopez said. “All that stuff is great — those are the biggest positives of the season. The biggest disappointment is that we were just inconsistent this season.”
It was the last basketball game in the careers of seniors Robinson, Nolan O’Kelly and Ethan Price. But the Warriors hope to have six juniors and a sophomore that played the entire year with the varsity team returning in 2019-20.
“It is going to depend, like every year, on what they do between now and next year,” Lopez said of the potential for next year’s team. “We lose three seniors that were obviously very important to us — they are going to be hard to replace. The guys coming back are going to have to step up, and hopefully they can make some improvement between now and next year.”
Andrew Butler of the Eureka Times-Standard contributed to this article.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .