By Ray Hamill — For the second time in three years, an H-DNL senior is a finalist for the McDonald’s All American Games in basketball.
Del Norte standout Jadence Clifton received the news on Thursday that she is one of 700 nominees for the prestigious showcase game.
The final teams of 24 boys and 24 girls will be named later this month, although the games themselves will not be played for the second straight year because of the pandemic.
Clifton, the defending Big 5 co-MVP, joins former teammate Kaleya Sanchez, who received the honor two years ago.
The Warriors senior has already accepted a scholarship offer to play college ball at Oregon Tech, where she will join former Eureka standout Makaila Napoleon, who is a sophomore with the team.
Despite the sports shutdown, Clifton has been working hard on her game in preparation for the prep season, which is expected to tip off later in the spring.
“There’s no limit for her,” the senior’s father and head coach Justin Clifton said. “She’s been working out like crazy.”
And that’s not good news for the rest of the Big 5, which collectively has struggled to contain the Warriors star over the past two seasons.
“She’s stronger right now,” Justin Clifton said. “She’s been working on her quickness and her strength.”
Jadence has also been working with a personal trainer as she gets set for one final high school season and her collegiate career.
“Her offensive game just jumped off the screen at me,” Oregon Tech head coach Scott Meredith said of Clifton when he recruited her. “And her ability to create a shot for herself when she’s well defended, even double teamed.
“She’s a very creative scorer. What she can do one-on-one you don’t often see from a high school kid.”
Jadence certainly has had a huge impact on the Big 5, teaming with Sanchez two years ago to lead the Warriors to a league and Dick Niclai Tournament double.
Last season as a junior, Clifton averaged 25.5 points, which led the North Coast Section and placed her among the top 10 scorers in the state.
She also averaged 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, and now she needs probably less than a game to break the Del Norte all-time scoring record.
Through three seasons, Clifton has scored 1,463 points, just 12 shy of Sanchez’s school record.
“I think it’s her heart,” Justin Clifton answered when asked what makes her so tough as a player. “She has no quit in her at all, whether you’re up by 20 or down by 20. And her basketball IQ is just so high.”
Jadence has been playing competitive basketball since the fourth grade.
As for the season, Justin Clifton is optimistic there will be one, especially after Friday’s news that the state has cleared the way for a return to all outdoor high school sports.
“I think we’re playing,” the Del Norte coach said. “After the news today I think we’re playing.”
The players were happy to hear it too.
“It lifted their spirits a lot,” the head coach said.