The Del Norte boys and girls varsity basketball teams got their 2019-20 seasons off to flying starts Tuesday evening at Thunen Gymnasium, as the Warrior girls opened the evening with a 60-34 victory over Hoopa, while the boys breezed to a 78-37, also over Hoopa, in the nightcap.
In the girls’ game, head coach Justin Clifton had a very simple but direct message for his team in the pregame huddle mere seconds before the group took the court.
“Let’s get off to a fast start,” Clifton said.
Things didn’t necessarily go as was hoped in the early going, as, although the game began at a frenetic pace, that tempo didn’t translate into points on the scoreboard. The home team began the game as frigid as the temperature outside has been for a majority of the past month, missing countless shots from 15 feet and in, thus allowing Hoopa to stay in the game throughout the opening quarter.
“Let’s get this out of our system and get the jitters out now,” Clifton said in the huddle after an opening quarter that saw the Warriors cling to an 11-8 lead.
Although things began to click somewhat in the second quarter after a subpar at best opening frame, the Warriors led by just 10 at the break and seemed as though they were pressing and attempting to use pace as a means of getting themselves out of their offensive woes.
Whatever was said during the halftime break proved to make a difference, as the Warriors began the second quarter on a 10-2 run, connecting on four of their first seven shots from the field as compared to what was an eight-of-35 field goal conversion output over the first two quarters.
Once the Warriors found their rhythm, the home team simply took the game over, using a combination of a suffocating defense that forced 35 turnovers on the night to generate transition opportunities at the offensive end of the court. Unlike the opening half when the Warriors forced 20 Hoopa turnovers but converted few of those into baskets at their own offensive end, the second half was a much different story, as the guard tandem of Jadence Clifton and Olivia Stilwell created all sorts of havoc on the perimeter, while the inside presence of Maykala Jackson, Selene Ledezma, Lily Wilson and twins Ashley and Aleesha Lenover patrolled the wings and the paint, giving Hoopa very little space or time to get anything going.
As a result, the home team ultimately began to pull away, leading by as many as 32 early in the final quarter and cruising to the non-conference victory. Clifton led all scorers with 30 points, while Stilwell added 11 and had just as many floor burns with her efforts on the defensive end as she did points offensively. Although Jackson, Ledezma, Wilson and the Lenover twins may have combined for only 17 points offensively, the quintet made significant contributions at the defensive end of the floor as well as on the the offensive and defensive glass, securing rebounds that allowed the Warriors to generate early offensive opportunities.
Del Norte 78 Hoopa 37
Although a large number of players are still involved in what continues to be a historic 2019 varsity football season, that doesn’t mean basketball season is on hold by any stretch of the imagination. The Warrior boys began the 2019-20 campaign in emphatic fashion Wednesday evening, jumping out to a quick 23-2 lead after one quarter and never being seriously challenged as they took on an over-matched Hoopa squad.
The home team wasted little time in getting their transition game going, as sharpshooters Omar Banuelos, Alexander Dodson and Judson Pincombe found their collective shooting stroke early and often, draining a combined six 3-point field goals on the night. Banuelos led what was a balanced offensive scoring night for the home team with a game-high 16 points, while Pincombe and Dodson scored 13 and 12 points respectively, most of those coming via conversions from distance.
As as been the case with the Warrior program for decades, offensive production is a direct result of relentless effort at the defensive end of the court and Wednesday evening was no exception. The Warriors forced a total of 25 Hoopa turnovers, as the point guard Damien Dowd made it virtually impossible for Hoopa to get anything remotely resembling an offense going. Even when Hoopa did manage to get looks at the basket, it wasn’t without plenty of resistance, as the Warriors held what is historically a potent Hoopa offense to a mere 16 first half points and took a 43-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.
With a comfortable lead in hand, the Warriors started to develop some uncharacteristically bad habits, particularly in the third quarter, as it appeared the home team was more interested in attempting to find out just how fast they could hoist up shots than focusing on playing the disciplined brand of basketball that enabled them to build the nearly 30-point advantage they enjoyed throughout the opening half.
The visiting Hoopa team was more than willing to take advantage, as it was Hoopa who began to take advantage of lackadaisical defense and turn it into transition opportunities and conversions of their own. However, once the margin got down to 15, the home team stepped on the figurative gas, getting back to the disciplined style of play that had enabled the quick start and dominating first half to happen. While the perimeter game was still clicking, it was being complemented by the inside presence of sophomores Edwin Zepeda and Colton Pincombe, who provided more than just a simple spark off the bench on both ends of the court, enabling the Warriors to right the proverbial ship and take back control of the game, ultimately leaving no doubt as to the outcome. Zepeda scored 13 points off the bench, while the younger the Pincombe brothers, that being Colton, scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

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