New-look Warriors impress early in season opener


By Ray Hamill — A very new-look Hoopa Warriors boys basketball team came storming out of the gate in their season opener at Del Norte on Wednesday night, before eventually falling 81-51.

With new head coach Augie Valdez calling the shots, the Warriors don’t have any players with any real varsity experience on their roster.

But Valdez liked a lot of what he saw from his young roster and is optimistic of what this group can achieve moving forward.

“It was our first game and we got to see what the kids could do,” Valdez said. “And I think it’s promising. I think there’s going to be a lot of growth in the next few weeks.”

The Warriors will play eight games in this shortened season, which will run for three weeks.

They host McKinleyville on Friday night in their home opener, getting to play in front of a Hoopa crowd for the first time in more than 15 months.

On Wednesday, the new-look roster, which features two starting sophomores, came out strong and scored 17 points in the opening quarter, giving a good Del Norte team everything it could handle.

“Coach Valdez has those kids coming out believing and playing hard,” Del Norte head coach Marc Slayton said.

Valdez said he was pleased with his team’s effort.

“I would say for our first game, I thought we did pretty well,” the coach said. “We came out strong. We were leading for a good portion of the first quarter, then the wind got to us.

“They played with a lot of heart.”

The Warriors have just two seniors this season, Larry Tracy and Daniel Minton, each of whom are enjoying an impressive final year in high school sports.

Sophomores Brendan Baldy and Lane Campbell each also are starting for the Warriors, while junior Ben Hunsucker also impressed in Wednesday’s loss.

“They just don’t give up,” Valdez said of his players. “They keep getting after it.

“Offensively we didn’t do bad. We scored 51 points, which is pretty good for our first outing. We’ve just got to tighten things up defensively and get better on the boards.”

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