Milestone night for one senior as high school basketball returns

File photo – Jadence Clifton is the new all-time scoring leader for the Del Norte Warriors.

High school basketball returned to the North Coast for the first time in 443 days on Monday, with a pair of games played locally.

And at least one local player had an immediate impact while enjoying a milestone night.

Del Norte senior Jadence Clifton scored 22 points in a 42-31 win over visiting Ferndale on her way to setting a new all-time scoring record at the school.

Clifton came into the season needing just 13 points to break the record previously held by her former teammate Kaleya Sanchez, and she now has 1,485 career points.

Also in action on Monday, the Fortuna girls comfortably got the better of a young South Fork team. For more on the Huskies, see Fortuna girls open strong, get set for key game on Wednesday …

Clifton is the lone senior on this year’s Del Norte team and one of just three players returning with any varsity experience.

“Absolutely, it’s a huge deal,” Del Norte head coach and Jadence’s father Justin Clifton said. “She’s good friends with Kaleya, and I think (Kaleya) knew if someone was going to break the record it was going to be Jadence.”

The two standouts played together on the same team two years ago, when the Warriors won a Big 5 and Dick Niclai Tournament double.

“Those two were amazing together,” the head coach said. “It was fun to watch (on Monday). It was a great passing of the torch.”

Jadence had a double-double, also finishing with 12 rebounds, eight steals, two blocks and five assists.

Two other players are back from last year’s team, juniors Lily Wilson and Gianna Taylor.

Wilson finished with 10 boards and six points in the win, while freshman Kamora McCovey enjoyed a productive debut with five points and four rebounds.

“For a lot of these girls, this was their first time playing basketball competitively since last year’s playoff game,” Justin Clifton said. “It’s been a while.”

In an at-times ugly opener, according to the coach, the players grew into the game and played solid defense in the second half.

“They’re all learning as they develop,” Justin Clifton said. “There’s a very bright future for these girls.

Taylor added two points, while talented freshmen Katehrine Moreke (three points and three rebounds) and Annessa Bettegga (three points, two rebounds and two steals) each also impressed.

COVID is already taking its toll on the abbreviated season, with two H-DNL games canceled on Monday because of players testing positive.

The Del Norte girls will play Hoopa on Wednesday night, but a Friday night game at Arcata has been canceled.

The H-DNL is planning on a quick three-week season, with each team playing up to three games a week.

“I told (Jadence) you literally have to play every game like it’s your last, because you really don’t know,” the head coach said.

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