No stopping these Falcons
Coaches call it protecting your home court, the comfy surroundings where the fans are loud, the bounces true and the rims friendly.
So call it what you want, but make one thing certain: Colfax’s 51-46 win over Lincoln in Falcon Gym Tuesday night to give the Falcons their fifth Pioneer Valley League boys basketball championship over the past eight seasons was indeed sweet.
Completing a 360-degree turnaround from a year ago when they finished in the basement of the PVL with a 1-9 record and didn’t make the playoffs for the first time in 23 years, coach Mike O’Connell’s team capped a remarkable climb to the top by out-grinding the visiting Zebras to win the PVL flag.
And when the Falcons open the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV with a 7 p.m. home playoff game next Wednesday, the Falcons will enter the post season as the No. 1 seed.
“It’s so rewarding to win it this year after what we went through last season,” said senior Will Buell who scored 19 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and was the Falcons’ steadying influence throughout the hotly contested game.
“We worked hard in the summer and off season and it all paid off tonight,” Buell added. “It was a great team win for us.”
The Falcons, 22-5 overall, went 8-2 in the PVL. Colfax was the lone team in the league to win all five of its home games, something which proved to be vital in a very competitive top to bottom PVL.
“It was a great win for us,” Mike O’Connell said. “You’re playing a longtime rival, a packed gym, battling for the championship. That’s what it’s about.”
After a first half that saw the Falcons and Zebras go into the locker room tied 23-23, the second half turned into a game of runs and the Falcons’ clutch 9-0 push over a three-and-a-half minute stretch of the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
With his team leading just 40-38 with 5:29 to go, Buell gave the Falcons some breathing room when he canned a 15-footer at the five-minute mark.
After a Lincoln miss, Buell was fouled on Colfax’s next possession and meshed both charity shots for a 44-38 margin.
On Lincoln’s next trip down the floor, junior guard Jordan Balser came up with a steal and when he was fouled on the way to the basket, his old-fashioned, three-point play made it 47-38 Colfax with 4:06 to play.
The Zebras still couldn’t get untracked and after the visitors missed two free throws at the 3:39 mark, the two teams traded misses before Buell put in an offensive rebound to make it 49-38 Colfax with just 2:14 remaining.
From there Lincoln used a pair of desperation threes by Marcus Salgado in the final minute to try to stay close but late free tosses by Balser and Taylor Dorsey made the long balls academic.
Following Buell in the scoring column for the winners was a pair of juniors, Balser and Dave Campbell, each with 10 points. Dorsey and Matt Larson added six points each.
For Lincoln (20-7, 7-3), the future looks bright as the Zebras floored five juniors and a pair of sophomores in their top nine player rotation. Salgado led the way with 15 points. Alexis Gonzalez was next with 11 points and Adam Felt added nine.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle,” O’Connell said. “I thought our inside presence really made a difference tonight and the kids did a good overall job on defense.”
Both Colfax, in Div. IV, and Lincoln, in Div. III, will now advance to the playoffs with division brackets being released by the CIF tomorrow at around 5 p.m.
Colfax 51, Lincoln 46
Lincoln 10 13 8 15 – 46
Colfax 10 13 12 16 – 51
Salgado 6 0-0 15; Gonzalez 4 2-4 11; Reyes 1 1-3 3; Shirley 1 0-0 3; Felt 3 2-2 9; Sterling 1 0-0 3; Stayner 1 0-0 2. Lincoln 17 5-9 46.
Campbell 2 4-4 10; Dorsey 2 1-2 6; Larson 3 0-0 6; Buell 7 3-4 19; Balser 3 2-3 10; Joyce 0 0-0 0; Wilson 0 0-0 0; Lewis 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 10-13 51.
3-point baskets – Lincoln 6 (Salgado 2, Sterling, Felt, Gonzalez, Shirley); Colfax 6 (Buell 2, Balser 2, Campbell, Dorsey).