Hoopa Defeats Del Norte 54-51 in Overtime

Warrior Tule O’Rourke jumped up to toss the ball past Del Norte’s Josh Gruden to Hoopa’s Norvin Hostler in front of a clapping and stomping hometown crowd in a knock-down drag-out game that wasn’t decided until the last second of overtime on Tuesday, January 21. / Photo by Kristan Korns, Two Rivers Tribune

By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune

Hoopa beat Del Norte in a knock-down drag-out Warriors vs. Warriors contest that wasn’t decided until the last second of overtime on Tuesday, January 21.

Tuesday’s game was the second game this season that Hoopa – part of the ‘Little 4’ because of the school’s small number of students – took on a ‘Big 5’ opponent. The Hoopa Warriors also beat the McKinleyville Panthers, 67-58, on January 7.

Tony McClure, Hoopa’s Varsity boy’s basketball coach, told the TRT his plan before the game.

“Matching up with their offense will be tough if we go big, so we’ll probably go smaller than we usually do,” McClure said.

“I watched these guys play last week against McKinleyville and they lost by 15,” McClure said. “They play tough D. They made McKinleyville work and they’ll make us work.”

He was right. Del Norte’s defense was intense, and their offense was just as strong as Hoopa’s, using a type of dribble hand-off wheel play.

The first points on the board were from a free throw each from Tule O’Rourke and Milton Stewart, followed by a layup from Del Norte’s Josh Gruden that tied the score 2-2.

The two teams battled for several minutes with neither one able to break past the other’s defense, until Hoopa’s Tahn Blake sank a three-pointer.

Fifteen seconds later, Del Norte’s Dylan Pease made a matching shot, tying the board up 5-5 with 4:05 left in the first quarter.

Both teams of Warriors pushed harder on offense. A flurry of layups from Del Norte was countered by sharp plays from Norvin Hostler and Brandon Rakestraw, and the first quarter ended with Hoopa down 10-13.

Hoopa and Del Norte’s offenses struggled to get past each team’s strong defense. It seemed to take two or three turns at possession to sink a single basket for either team.

With seconds left in the second quarter, Hoopa Warrior Ben Sanderson took a shot and missed. Stewart was waiting under the basket, grabbed the rebound, and did a layup to end the first half 23-25.

Assistant Coach Boyd Ferris said, “Pretty tight game so far. We need to knock down shots in the second half and keep playing defense.”

The game stayed tight throughout the second half. With just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hoopa was ahead by four points, 42-38, until Del Norte’s Dylan Pease tossed a three-pointer.

Brandon Japp stepped up to the free throw line less than a minute later, hitting on both throws and putting Del Norte ahead by one point. His teammate Steven Maready did the same, putting them ahead of Hoopa by three points with a little over a minute left on the clock.

The hometown crowd stamped their feet and clapped their hands as Hoopa retook possession of the ball. Seconds later, cheers echoed across the gymnasium when Hoopa Warrior Tahn Blake sank a three-pointer that tied the board 45-45 and sent the game into overtime.

McClure told the team, “You know what they’re going to do. Put some pressure on them and make them make a mistake.”

Both teams stepped up the intensity of their game, with strong offenses trying to break through near-perfect defenses.

Time was running out for Hoopa, behind 50-51, when Tahn Blake grabbed the ball from a Del Norte player’s hands, ran the length of the court, and did a layup.

Del Norte retook possession and Maready tried for the basket and missed. Hoopa’s Stewart snatched the rebound, and was fouled a moment later.

Stewart widened Hoopa’s lead by sinking two free throws with just one second left in overtime.

Del Norte’s Joey Godla tried for a shot at the last possible second, but missed and the game was over with a 54-51 victory for the Hoopa Warriors.

Relatives, friends, and well-wishers came down from the stands to the court to pat the Warriors on the back and congratulate them on a great game.

Tule O’Rourke said, “I knew we were going to come out on top.”

Tahn Blake, standing next to O’Rourke, smiled and said, “I didn’t know we had it until they missed that last shot. They’re a good three-point shooting team.”

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