By Ray Hamill — The school year just keeps getting better for the Del Norte Warriors and their fans.
On Tuesday night they clinched a Big 5 championship in boys basketball, to go with the league crown they won in football, the first time the school has won both championships outright in the same year since the 2007/08 school year.
And they did so in dramatic fashion, capping a big comeback with an Omar Banuelos 3-pointer in the dying seconds and pulling out a 50-48 win in a thriller at Arcata High.
“I’m just so proud of our kids,” head coach Marc Slayton said. “They’ve worked so hard. The effort they put in, it’s deserved. They did everything asked of them from summer workouts on.”
They had to fight for this one, and trailed almost the entire game.
The Tigers came storming out of the gates and led by as many as 13 points early, before the Warriors responded with a big second quarter to pull within two points at halftime.
“I really think in that second quarter we held our composure,” Slayton said. “But I don’t think we were bad in the first quarter, I just think they were good.
“But in the second quarter I thought we got the better of them and made some shots. We felt good at halftime.”
But if the Warriors had snatched the momentum from the Tigers in the second period, the home team snatched it right back after the interval, coming out fired up again.
Arcata went on a quick 10-0 run in the opening two minutes of the third to stretch the lead back out to 12, before the visitors once again clawed their way back.
“We battled,” Slayton said. “Every possession was important.”
Three-pointers by Judson Pincombe, Anthony Slayton and Kaleb Price pulled the Warriors back within three, before the Tigers closed out the period with back-to-back 3s by Jack Taylor and Garrett Hall to lead by eight going into the fourth.
The two teams combined for seven 3-pointers in an exciting back-and-forth third quarter.
The fourth quarter, however, belonged to the Warriors, who outscored the home team 19-9 for the period.
Pincombe overcame a slow start to lead a balanced team performance offensively with 11 points for Del Norte, which is now 7-0 in the Big 5 and 19-1 overall.
“He came out and competed in the second half,” the head coach said of Pincombe. “And when he knocks down shots it opens things up for other people.”
Banuelos scored a team-high 13 points in the win, including a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers, while Anthony Slayton, who played a big role in the football team’s championship-winning season, also had a big night, finishing with 10 points.
Kaleb Price added eight points in the win, while Kobe Mitchell finished with six points and was 4-for-6 from the free-throw line.
For Arcata, Hall scored a team-high 14 points, while Taylor added nine.
Mason Railsback and Brandon Bento-Jackson each chipped in eight points, and Niko Zambas six.
With the loss, the Tigers dropped to 5-2 in the Big 5 and 16-8 overall.
Del Norte shared the Big 5 title in 2018 and in 2011, but this is the program’s first outright since 2008.
In earlier games the Tigers JVs defeated the Warriors 47-43, and the Arcata freshmen also won.