Contenders abound in the PVL

By: Dave Krizman Journal Sports Columnist
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This evening, league play for boys’ basketball in the Pioneer Valley League begins. Unlike past years where there was a clear cut favorite, Bear River in 2008-2009, and the Colfax dynasty from 2005 through 2008, there is no overwhelming favorite. Three or maybe four teams have a shot at winning the league title. The following is a breakdown of the front runners after careful analysis of the preseason. Colfax: The Falcons enter league play with a 12-3 non-league record. All three losses were against top-notch programs — Palma of Salinas, Berkeley in the finals of the Warrior Classic, and Del Oro in the first round of the Kendall Arnett. Perhaps most telling is the point differential of the teams who have played and been beaten by Del Oro. Colfax lost by ‘only’ 11 points. According to Justin Witt, the Falcons learned from the loss. “We learned how detrimental nerves can be,” said Witt, a two-year starter. “We came out much too tight and let them (Del Oro) get a mental edge. I think we are the favorites to win the PVL, but Lincoln will be really good, so that will be a battle for sure.” With Ryan Salmonson, Austin Oberg, Joey Jergo, Kyle Greer, and Chase Mosier coming off the bench, Colfax will be in the hunt. Placer: The Hillmen enter league play with an 8-7 non-league record. However, do not be misled by this pedestrian record. Three of their losses came before the return of Josh Klem, Josh Turney, and Collin Burnett, all returning from their extended football season. The Hillmen have suffered through three losses of two points or less. Placer’s 12-point loss to Del Oro also suggests that their high-octane offense can keep them in any game. “We have a chance to win every night,” Placer senior Michael Jensen said. “No one is a clear dramatic force. The Bear River loss was a deflating loss, to be up by 13 and then lose at the buzzer. The following night versus Del Campo we had no focus. Our emotions had been spent the night before.” No coach in the league gets his team better prepared for league play than Mark Lee, and in response, no team plays harder for their coach. With Klem, James Taber, Darren Centi and Jensen, the Hillmen will battle for the league title. Lincoln: The Fighting Zebras enter league play with a 12-2 non-league record. Both of their losses have come at the hands of Del Oro. Lincoln’s first loss to Del Oro came on Dec. 1 by a 24-point margin, and most recently Lincoln was thoroughly beaten by the same Del Oro squad by 30 this past Saturday. Keenan Hale, a 6-4 forward, leads the Zebras with 21.2 points per game. A forward who likes to attack the rim, Hale may be the most talented player in the league. El Dorado: The Cougars enter league play with an 11-4 record. With losses to Ponderosa and Wallenberg of San Francisco, the Cougars have played a rugged non-league schedule.