Bliss’s big fourth quarter sends Colfax to NorCal Regional championship game

·5 min read

Grace Bliss is the main attraction on a deep and experienced Colfax High School girls basketball team that until Saturday night, had handled every team it faced in the playoffs.

Against Pleasant Valley of Chico on Saturday night in Placer County, the top-seeded Falcons ran into some speed bumps and trailed late into the fourth quarter. That’s when Bliss took over and scored 10 of her 20 points to beat Pleasant Valley 47-44 in the Northern California Division Vl Regional semifinal.

Bliss hit two free throws with 7.6 seconds left, and Pleasant Valley missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a shot at overtime. When the buzzer sounded, fans stormed the court at Ron Pucci Pavillion. Colfax players celebrated with the crowd and Falcons coach Rich Simpton and his staff embraced.

Simpton was emotional after the game.

“This atmosphere, this community is so special,” Simpton said. “We have worked so hard to get here. Grace took over the game in the fourth quarter. She wanted the ball and told me to find a way to give it to her.”

Colfax (30-4) won its 19th consecutive game and 25th of its last 26 because of relentless defense and unselfish play. Bliss has a supporting cast just as valuable as she is.

“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Bliss said. “ I love them.”

Jazzy Owens scored 14 points and Natalie Lundberg, who had all 10 of her points in the first half. Gabriella Bittner hit a big 3-pointer in the third quarter and Stella Chavez had a key basket in the fourth to keep the game close. Aliya McCord did not score but she played good defense and grabbed rebounds.

“You never see a group of kids like this in a small school, that are as athletic and fast as my girls are,” Simpton added. “They are extremely competitive and it’s a special group of kids. We play a lot of basketball together in the spring and summer to prepare for a game like tonight. We have been doing it for so long, it’s like second nature to us.

“It’s not just Grace,” Simpton added. “We are so good that teams can’t just focus on her. Natalie kept us in the game in the first half. Stella and Aliya played great defense all night, and Jazzy is a winner. She does a lot for us and always guards the team’s best player. It’s a really strong group.”

Most of the girls on this team play multiple sports.

“It’s highly encouraged for our kids to play multiple sports,” Simpton said. “It’s very important to us to be a well-rounded kid and athlete.”

Colfax will host Sierra Pacific of Fresno on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the regional finals. It’s the first time Colfax is in a regional final since 1998. The Falcons are 3-0 in NorCal regional games and won CIF State D-III championships in 1983 and ‘84.

Simpton recognizes the crowd as a big factor and advantage. He expects it to be even crazier Tuesday.

“The support means a lot to me, but I know it means more to the girls,” Simpton said. “Our crowd gets bigger each game and we are a fun team to watch. This community has seen our players grow up and they know these kids well. Hopefully the crowd Tuesday is even bigger, but tonight was the biggest crowd I have ever seen in this gym.”

Girls NorCal basketball results and schedule

Open Division

Archbishop Mitty 64, Cardinal Newman 40

St. Joesph Notre Dame 53, Clovis West 47

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 2 St. Joe’s at No. 1 Mitty

Division l

Salesian 53, Pinewood 44

Bishop O’Dowd 67, Clovis North 50

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 2 Bishop O’Dowd at No. 1 Salesian

Division ll

Oakland Tech 68, San Joaquin Memorial 64

Clovis 70, Del Oro 63

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 2 Clovis at No. 1 Oakland Tech

Division lll

Woodside Priory 59, Atpos 53

Saint Mary’s 61, Los Gatos 46

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 5 Woodside Priory at No. 2 Saint Mary’s

Division lV

Colfax 47, Pleasant Valley 44

Sierra Pacific 62, Argonaut 42

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 11 Sierra Pacific at No. 1 Colfax

Division V

West Valley 47, University Prep 27

Branson 47, Monte Vista Christian 46

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 2 Branson at No. 1 West Valley

Division Vl

Laytonville 38, Calistoga 35

Forest Lake Christian 43, Redding Christian 38

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Forest Lake Christian at No. 1 Laytonville

Boys

Open

Dublin forfeit win over Sheldon

Bishop O’Dowd 73, Archbishop Mitty 60

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 4 Dublin at No. 3 Bishop O’Dowd

Division l

Archbishop Riordan, De La Salle — postponed

Campolindo 60, Salesian 59

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Salesian vs No. 4 De La Salle/ No. 1 Archbishop Riordan

Division ll

Weston Ranch 57, St. Mary’s 55

St. Patrick-St. Vincent 56, Sacred Heart Prep 43

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 4 Weston Ranch at No. 2 St. Pat-St. Vincent

Division lll

Saint Mary’s 63, Wood 41

Carmel 55, Foothill 50

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 7 Carmel at No. 4 Saint Mary’s

Division lV

Brookside Christian 52, Hoover 48

Lincoln 69, University 58

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 8 Brookside Christian at No. 2 Lincoln

Division V

Pierce 54, Eastside College Prep 50

San Domenico 64, Bradshaw Christian 58

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 3 San Domenico at No.1 Pierce

Division Vl

Weed 55, Ferndale 32

Ripon Christian 70, Fall River 49

Tuesday Regional Finals, 7 p.m.

No. 2 Ripon Christian at No. 1 Weed

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