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Falcon boys hoops shake-up Hillmen, 69-55

Sawi, O'Keefe help lift Colfax to 5-0 first half PVL mark
By: Mike Ray, Staff Writer
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COLFAX - Word on the street before the prep basketball season got underway was that the Colfax Falcons boys team lacked the backcourt play, depth and experience to be a factor in this year’s Pioneer Valley League race.

However, as evidenced by their play here Thursday night, someone must have forgotten to tell the Falcons.

Relying on their inside scoring strength on offense and displaying a tenacious defensive effort that limited visiting Placer to just one look at the basket most of the evening, the Falcons treated a raucous Pucci Pavilion faithful to a pulsating 69-55 win over the three-time defending PVL champion Hillmen.

“ I thought the kids played just great tonight,” said Colfax coach Terry O’Keefe whose Falcons improved to 5-0 in the PVL after one round of play. “We made some mistakes but I thought our hustle and determination really showed up especially in the second half.”

For Colfax, it was a complete team effort that produced the Falcons’ first varsity win over a Placer team since administering an 84-61 drubbing of the Hillmen in February of the 2014 season.

“We had a lot of contributions at different times from different guys,” O’Keefe added. “Nate (Sawi), Garren (O’Keefe) and Max (Wolff) were all solid underneath. I thought Vic (Edwards), Jake (Green) and Mason (Ahrens) all came up big when we needed it.”

The Falcons trailed just once in the game, 4-2 at the 4:50 mark of the opening quarter before Sawi and Wolff combined for nine of the Falcons next 12 points which boosted the hosts into a 12-9 advantage after the first eight minutes went into the books.

From there, the Falcons behind Sawi and Garren O’Keefe stretched their lead to 21-11 before standout Placer guard Kai Huntsberry tallied 12 second canto markers to keep the Hillmen within, 31-25, at the intermission.

In the third quarter, Edwards’ three point play and a steal and ensuing lay-in by Jake Green pushed Colfax back out to a double digit lead at 38-27  with 3:45 to go. Green then buried a trey and Sawi hit on a pair of charity shots to lift the Falcons into a 45-32 advantage with 50 seconds left in the period.

But Huntsberry, who finished with a game high 26 points, kept the Hillmen close at 45-36 when he scored the last four points of the quarter.

Placer looked on the verge of a comeback when a bucket by Rylan Walsh and a triple by Layton Birchell started the fourth quarter but after watching Placer pull to within, 45-41,  Colfax, keyed by Garren O’Keefe, Sawi and Green, answered with a 15-4 run that made the count, 60-45 with 2:50 to play.

Placer trimmed the Colfax lead down to 60-50 with 2:19 to go but the Falcons foiled the Hillmen fouling tactics by connecting eight of their next 11 free tosses to cement the win. On the evening, Colfax buried 25 of 35 free tosses.

Sawi led the Falcons with 21 points while Garren O’Keefe added 19 more and grabbed 13 rebounds. Green chipped in with 10 points and snared six boards while Wolff did nine points worth of damage and added eight rebounds.

For Placer, which played without starting forward Noah Richardson out with an ankle injury, Huntsberry’s 26 led the way. Walsh followed with 11 while Konner Baroni added six and Birchell five. 

"It's a big win for us but there's a long way to go," said Terry O'Keefe. "We'll savor this one awhile and then get back to work."

Colfax (16-6, 5-0) hosts Center next Wednesday while Placer (15-7, 4-1) entertains Bear River.

In the JV game, Max Petrenko scored 19 points and Dane Eklund added 13 as the Hillmen scored a 51-37 win. Sam Sinor led the Falcons with 14 points.

Placer’s frosh also won, taking a 50-42 decision. Caden Lichau led Placer with 11 points while Carson Seeman added nine and Jackson Lee eight. Sam Baldoni fired in 14 for Colfax.