Omar Banuelos scored 19 points including 10 during a third-quarter takeover, the Warriors held the Tigers to eight points for the bulk of the second half before both teams subbed down, and the Del Norte High boys basketball team defeated Arcata 46-35 in the championship round of the Humboldt-Del Norte League Dick Niclai Tournament, securing the program’s fifth all-time Niclai championship and first since 2008, Friday night at Lumberjack Arena.
“It’s the icing on the cake for us,” Del Norte head coach Marc Slayton said. “We never talked about the Niclai as a goal this season, the goal is always to win conference and we did that. But for these kids to come out here and compete how they did and get it done, its a tremendous feat for them.”
Six different Warriors scored in the first quarter as Del Norte stormed out to an 11-4 lead before ending the frame with an 18-9 advantage thanks to a 3-pointer from Banuelos with three seconds to play in the first.
Defense was the word in the second quarter. Arcata held Del Norte to a total of three points in the frame — all from Banuelos — but struggled to take advantage on offense. Arcata made two field goals in the second quarter and finished it with seven points before heading into the break trailing 21-16.
Arcata would never get closer than five points for the remainder of the night.
“We talked about sharing the ball better and getting good shots at halftime,” Slayton said. “We wanted to get (Banuelos) into the post more, and he did that.
“We just want the ball in his hands,” the coach said. “We feel comfortable with him at any of the five positions.”
Banuelos went on a tear in the third quarter, scoring Del Norte’s first seven points of the third before Kaleb Price connected on a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 31-20 lead.
Banuelos drained a 3-ball with just over a minute to play in the third as Del Norte headed into the final quarter with a 38-22 lead. Del Norte held Arcata to a total of four third-quarter points.
Del Norte bumped its lead up to as much as 17 points, 43-26, after Anthony Slayton hit a 3-pointer and Damian Dowd drove through the lane for a circus-style layup.
Both teams subbed out their starters with just under three minutes to play. At that point, Arcata had scored eight points through the first 13 minutes of the second half.
For Slayton, Friday’s championship win puts the veteran coach in a class of his own.
Slayton is the first coach to win both a girls and boys Niclai championship. In 1998 Slayton led the Lady Warriors to the program’s first-ever Niclai title.
“I am blessed to have coached two all-time teams,” Slayton said. “I am as proud of these boys as I was of those girls 20 years ago.”
Del Norte: Banuelos 19pts, Dowd 8pts.
Arcata: Garrett Hall 11pts, Mason Railsback 6pts.
Both teams will await the North Coast Section playoff seedings, to be announced Sunday.