Basketball

Impressive Del Norte the team to beat in the Big 5

File photo – Last year’s Del Norte Warriors won the Big 5.

The Del Norte Warriors got the girls basketball season off to a wining start on Tuesday, as they get set for what will be a busy stretch for the team with eight games in the next 11 days.

But if early indications are anything to go by, it should be another big season for the defending conference champions who have emerged as the team to beat in the Big 5.

On Tuesday team captain Jadence Clifton got her junior campaign off to a flying start with a game-high 34 points in a 60-34 win over Hoopa in Crescent City.

Clifton, an all-league selection a year ago, had a phenomenal season opener and came close to recording a quadruple-double.

In addition to her points tally, Clifton finished with nine assists, nine rebounds and eight steals.

The junior is one of a group of top-class guards the Warriors will feature this season.

“I think we have a very unique roster. We’re extremely fast. We have very fast guards,” head coach Justin Clifton said. “Our one-two-three guards are top notch. Definitely next level players.”

The Warriors actually lost an all-league guard this offseason when junior Bella Stone moved to Medford, but the loss will be made easier with the wealth of talent at the position.

In addition to Jadence Clifton, senior Olivia Stillwell rejoins the team after sitting out last year, and will start along with junior Kirsten Brous, senior Selene Ledezma and junior Maykala Jackson.

“We’re very excited about Olivia. She’s probably our best 3-point shooter,” the head coach said. “She’s one of the fastest girls on our team, and she can finish.”

Jackson, a.k.a Big Mac, should give the Warriors an athletic presence inside.

“She’s gotten a lot better,” the head coach said of the 5-foot-11 junior. “She’s very athletic, very fast.”

Off the bench, Justin Clifton will be looking for senior twins Ashley and Aleesha Lenover to give the team some valuable minutes.

“They bring a big spark off the bench,” he said.

A couple of freshmen — Lily Wilson and Gianna Taylor — also join the team this season, with each impressing in Tuesday’s win.

“They got the jitters out,” the head coach said of the duo.

Wilson pulled down four rebounds.

Another junior, Thalee Grogan, is also expected to play a big role off the bench this season, while talented sophomore Molly Slayton unfortunately has been lost for the year with an injury.

The Warriors will play three games at the Yreka tournament this weekend, before returning home to host a very tough Hidden Valley team on Tuesday in what should be a good early measuring stick.

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