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Game of thrones: Colfax claims PVL crown with win over Lincoln boys

By: Mike Ray / Gold Country News Service
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COLFAX – Worst to first.

Completing a 360-degree turnaround, the Colfax Falcons’ boys basketball team capped a remarkable climb to the top here Tuesday night by out-grinding visiting Lincoln, 51-46, to capture the Pioneer Valley League championship.

Exactly one year after finishing in the PVL basement at 1-9 and not qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1990, the Falcons bagged their fifth PVL hoop crown over the past eight years with Tuesday’s hard-fought win. And next week, the Falcons will enter the pos season as the No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Div. IV playoffs.

“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.

“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 and 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” said Colfax coach Mike O’Connell. “You’re playing a longtime rival, a packed gym, battling for the championship. That’s what it’s about.”

After a first half which saw the Falcons and Zebras go into the locker room tied 23-23, the second half turned into a game of runs — the Falcons’ clutch 9-0 push over a three-and-a-half minute stretch of the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.

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 and 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 were a pair of juniors, Balser and Dave Campbell, each with 10 points. Dorsey and Matt Larson both 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 section Wednesday around 5 p.m.