Falcons Trying to Weather Mid-Season "Slump"

Colfax Boys fall to 2-3 in PVL hoop race
By: Mike Ray Colfax Record Sports Editor
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Trying to put a finger on last week’s 63-44 Pioneer Valley League loss to visiting Lincoln left Colfax High boys basketball followers – not to mention head coach Ron Pucci – scratching their collective heads and wondering: Mid-season slump or no gas left in the tank? Falcon Faithful were keeping their fingers crossed that it was the former and not the latter. However, has the calendar gets set to flip to February, one thing is for sure, the Falcons need to string together some PVL victories over the next three weeks or they will be in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1990 season or an 18-year stretch. While the Colfax defeat – the Falcons’ third in their last four PVL outings – was indeed tough to swallow, it should be noted in the Falcons’ favor that the contest was a lot more closer than the final score indicated. Remarkably, with 4:01 left in the game, Colfax trailed just 43-40 after a pair of Justin Witt baskets, the first off of nice back door cut and assist from Jeff Divine, and the second on a 12-foot jumper. The two baskets by the Colfax junior had fueled what to that point had been a 7-4 Falcons fourth quarter point exchange which had helped the hosts cut into Lincoln’s margins of 29-22 at the halftime break and 38-33 after three quarters. Prior to Witt’s two key hoops, the Falcons had several missed opportunities that perhaps would have made their comeback successful. Three missed free throws in the early stages of the final stanza and a pair of empty possessions when they twice had a chance to trim the Zebras’ lead to one point ended up hurting the Falcons dearly. “For not playing well we still had our chances,” said Pucci whose team fell to 2-3 in PVL games and 12-8 overall. “We missed some free throws and turned the ball over in key spots.” However, in the game’s final four minutes it was all Lincoln. Junior guard A.J. Inocelda had a key hand in the Falcons’ demise as his three-point play on Lincoln’s ensuing possession following Witt’s second hoop pushed the Zebras up, 46-40. Then after Keenan Hale netted a pair of free tosses with 2:52 to play to make it 48-40 Lincoln, Inocelda sank the Falcons’ hopes with a back-breaking trey that made the score, 51-40 with just over two and a half to play. Colfax tried to stay within striking distance after a Joey Jergo hoop trimmed the count to 53-42 but the Falcons could only counter with a pair of Divine free tosses with 1:26 to go. Lincoln’s keen three-point shooting was pivotal in the game. The Zebras hit on five of their six trey attempts in the first half and went on to finish the game with eight baskets from beyond the arc. The Zebras also added insult to injury by sinking 13 of 15 free throws in the game. Hale, a 6-4 junior swing player, scored 18 points for the winners while Jake Courage, a 6-6 junior pivot who scored both inside and outside, added 13 more points. Inocelda added 11 and Mark Murphy nine. Colfax followed Witt’s 12 points, 11 from Divine and nine by Ethan Guiles. The Falcons, who trek to Placer Wednesday night to complete the first half of league play, open the second round of PVL action at Bear River Friday in a 7:30 p.m. game. Next Wednesday, the Falcons host Whitney, the PVL leader, in another 7:30 p.m. game.