All they had to do was beat the two girls basketball teams ahead of them to finish off their late run for a share of the Valley League championship.
That’s exactly what Del Norte High accomplished.
After beating Oceanside on Tuesday, the host Nighthawks nearly ran Ramona off the court in the first quarter before holding on in the second half for a 52-42 victory Friday night.
“When that banner goes up, running the table in the second round of league and beating Oceanside and Ramona in the same week will be worth it,” Del Norte coach Jake McNeely said. “The girls saw the finish line this week and we’ve been slow starters until the two games this week.”
Del Norte (16-11, 8-2) now shares the league title with Ramona (18-10, 8-2) and Oceanside (14-12, 8-2).
“I was pretty nervous when the week started,” Del Norte senior guard Kaytlin Manuel said after a career-high 27 points to go with six rebounds. “Now that it’s over, I’m pretty tired.”
Del Norte, which dropped a 52-43 decision to Ramona on Jan. 26, appeared on the verge of a knockout shot in the first quarter.
With Manuel scoring 14 of her team’s first 16 points, the Nighthawks led 18-4 before a shooting slump — 1 of 13 from the field along with five turnovers — in the second quarter let the Bulldogs back into the game.
Ahead 21-17 at halftime, Del Norte’s woes continued until the Bulldogs tied the game at 24-24.
Behind six third-quarter points by Lexi Reddick, Del Norte led 30-26 heading into the final quarter, though Ramona made one last run by slicing the deficit to 32-31 on Christina Barrameda’s rebound basket with 5:38 to play.
To that point, only three players had scored for Del Norte. By game’s end, Manuel and Reddick, who scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, had combined for 41 of their team’s points.
“Lexi slumped in the first half, but she played through it and saved us in the second half,” Manuel said. “She was the biggest game changer when the game was on the line.”
Ramona, led by Kailey Hill’s 14 points, never got any closer the rest of the way.
Except when it was obvious the Bulldogs would have to share the crown that was theirs for the taking.