By Ray Hamill — The Hoopa Valley Warriors begin their quest for a North Coast Section title on Friday afternoon, a quest that will likely come down to one thing above all others.
“Our defensive intensity has got to match the offensive intensity,” head coach Tyler Mitchell said.
The Warriors host Urban in a re-scheduled opening-round clash that was originally set for Wednesday night but was postponed twice because of weather conditions and will now finally take place at 1 p.m. on Friday.
The NCS announced on Thursday afternoon that if the Hoopa boys win on Friday they now won’t have to travel for a quarterfinal matchup against Head-Royce in Oakland until Monday, again because of safety and weather concerns.
The Hoopa boys are seeded No. 5 in the Division-V bracket and looking for a first section title since 2003.
And defense is going to be key if they are to achieve that.
“We’ve just got to play great defense,” Mitchell said. “I think offensively, we’ve been able to score all year at a pretty good rate.”
Offense has certainly not been a concern for the high-flying Warriors, who are led by the ever-dangerous George Navarro and his 30.7 points a game.
Wade Nixon (14.7 points a game) and Dennis Young (8.8) also have been instrumental on a team that is putting up 69.6 points a game.
And if they can match that offensive prowess with some defensive intensity against Urban, moving on should not be a problem.
“They’re definitely coming along,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been able to get better and better. It’s just we have to focus on our defense. Size-wise we’re out-matched, so we have to play bigger than we are.”
Urban comes into the game with a record of 10-17, and the Blues play a style of basketball the Warriors are familiar with.
“They kind of reminded me of a South Fork,” Mitchell said. “They like to push the tempo and get out on the break a lot.”
Sophomore guard Bryce Smith is particularly dangerous for the Blues.
The rescheduled game makes it a challenge for some Hoopa fans to attend in the middle of the workday, and was a controversial decision for many in the area.
Mitchell, however, says his players are doing what they need to do.
“They’re just focused on the game and ready to go whenever we play,” the coach said. “They’re ready. They just want to play the game.”
The winner of Friday’s game advances to play at No. 4 Head-Royce in Oakland on Saturday.