This has been the region’s road-warrior outfit, with a simple plan: pack up, head out, prevail.
The Colfax High girls basketball team opened the season in Sonoma County, winning the Gold Rush Shootout. A 47-19 home rout of Calaveras was followed by winning the Duard Mullet Tournament in Oroville, and then last week presented something closer to home in Placer County.
Colfax (10-0) won the Mike Takayama Memorial in Loomis with a semifinal victory over event host and No. 13 Del Oro, capped by a 41-33 win over Oakmont for the title.
Next up is the Jan Vitell Tournament in Placerville for the No. 12 Falcons, followed by the Yosemite Winter Shootout.
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Colfax’s next home game, and just the second of the season, will be Jan. 12 against Placer to open Pioneer Valley League action.
Not bad for a team still finding itself as three starters helped power the school’s volleyball team to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship and to the CIF Northern California D-IV regional final.
“We have typically played better on the road over the years, and I think it’s critical for kids to spend time together on these road trips,” said fifth-year Colfax coach Rich Simpton. “We also get to play teams out of our area at these tournaments.”
The early focus has been on defense, Simpton said. “Our offensive execution and timing are getting better, and we are gradually jelling as a group.”
Colfax is no newcomer to basketball excellence. The Falcons have won nine section championships, and in 1983 and ’84, they became the area’s first program – girls or boys – to win a CIF State basketball crown, winning Division III titles under coach John Alba, whose two-year record then was 52-4. Jim Ryan followed and went 369-79 from 1984-98, winning 11 league titles and seven section banners.
A Chico native with coaching stops at Chico State and Nevada Union, Simpton has led four successive playoff teams. The Falcons are thinking championship behind seniors Caleigh McClenahan (averaging 12.8 points, 11.5 rebounds) and Annaliese Ballowe (11 points), and sophomore Grace Bliss (15.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG).
The biggest victory of the season was over Del Oro, also a traditional section power. Bliss, a forward, had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Ballowe, a guard, scored 14, including two late 3-pointers.
Folsom fire – Top-ranked Folsom rolled previous No. 2 West Campus 62-26 in a nonleague game, one night after beating Elk Grove 49-47 in overtime.
The Bulldogs (8-1) were strong defensively, shared the ball and even dazzled with some nifty passes.
UCLA-bound center Shayley Harris had 14 points, 17 rebounds and eight blocked shots, and Cal-bound guard McKenzie Forbes had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Charity Gallegos also scored 13 points, and Parker Gordon had 11.
“We played great together,” Forbes said.
Folsom on Wednesday plays at No. 4 McClatchy, The Bee’s preseason No. 1 team that has lost locally only to West Campus.
No. 5 Jesuit won the Mel Good Classic in Yuba City, topping No. 11 Rocklin 78-67 behind guards Isaiah Rutherford and Jake Virga, and forward Chris Simpson.
Rocklin has recent wins over once-ranked Cordova, No. 12 Antelope and previously ranked No. 12 Christian Brothers. The Thunder play No. 14 Whitney in the Quarry Classic on Tuesday.
Davis surge – No. 18 Davis beat Delta League rival Pleasant Grove 60-58 to win its own Les Curry Invitational, named after the famed Blue Devils coach from the 1960s-80s.
Sophomores Joey Ata and Cody Taylor were all-tournament, and Taylor was tabbed MVP after averaging 17.6 points.
Rams roll – Dixon is 8-0, beating teams from Angels Camp, Colusa, Live Oak and San Francisco.
Anthony Hatfield leads Dixon in scoring at 12 points per game, followed by Robert Nagle (10) and Romel Osorio (8.3).
Mesa Verde is 8-1 and West Campus 6-1. Along with Dixon, each target No. 1 Capital Christian in what figures to be a competitive Golden Empire League race.
Dennis Houlihan and Darren Nill have stepped down as coaches at Nevada Union and Cordova, respectively.
Houlihan led his alma mater for five seasons, finding it to be a struggle to be an off-campus coach navigating through the rigorous Sierra Foothill League that includes Folsom, Oak Ridge, Del Oro, Granite Bay and Rocklin, though he will remain as the school’s softball coach.
The Miners went 2-8 this season but lost their final 31 SFL games. NU will be realigned out of the SFL this fall.
Houlihan was a three-sport star at NU in the late 1980s, a member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame and just the Miners’ third football coach since 1984, following Randy Blankenship and Dave Humphers.
Nill left Cordova to be with his elderly parents in Arizona. He coached there for three seasons, leading the Lancers in 2016 to its first league championship in 25 years and the famed program to its first playoff berth in 10 years.
Cordova repeated as Sierra Valley League champions this season.
THE BEE’S TOP 20
With last week’s ranking in parentheses.
1. Folsom (1) 8-1
2. Sacramento (4) 4-2
3. West Campus (2) 6-1
4. McClatchy (3) 6-2
5. Roseville (5) 6-0
6. Christian Brothers (6) 5-2
7. Antelope (7) 7-1
8. Foothill (8) 8-1
9. Oak Ridge (9) 3-3
10. St. Francis (10) 2-1
11. Whitney (13) 5-3
12. Colfax (18) 10-0
13. Del Oro (14) 6-2
14. Cosumnes Oaks (15)
15. Woodcreek (16) 8-2
16. Franklin (20) 6-3
17. Granite Bay (17) 9-1
18. Elk Grove (11) 3-5
19. Davis (12) 3-4
20. Valley (-) 6-2
Dropped out: No. 19 Liberty Ranch
With last week’s ranking in parentheses.
1. Capital Christian (1) 2-3
2. Folsom (2) 5-1
3. Sheldon (3) 2-1
4. Oak Ridge (5) 5-0
5. Jesuit (6) 5-1
6. Grant (7) 6-1
7. Sacramento (8) 7-1
8. Burbank (4) 8-2
9. Liberty Ranch (9) 6-0
10. Del Oro (13) 7-2
11. Rocklin (-) 8-4
12. Antelope (11) 8-3
13. Woodcreek (15) 4-2
14. Whitney (16) 6-2
15. Del Campo (17) 6-2
16. Granite Bay (14) 6-3
17. Franklin (20) 5-3
18. Davis (-) 7-3
19. Monterey Trail (18) 4-3
20. Cosumnes Oaks (10) 4-3
Dropped out: No. 12 Christian Brothers, No. 19 Pleasant Grove.