COLFAX — Sierra Pacific is dancing all the way to Sacramento this Saturday for the chance at another CIF State championship. And they’ve done it an impressive manner.

Pegged as the No. 11 seed before the state playoffs began, Sierra Pacific let the disappointment of a Central Section finals loss and the puzzling CIF seeding process motivate them to new heights.

“Right now, it feels great because we lost Valley, that was really hard for all of us,” Sierra Pacific’s Celeste Lewis said. “We worked hard, I feel like we deserved it and to bounce back to this position, I feel like we’re more confident and have more composure throughout the whole team.”

Make no mistake, this is not a Cinderella run. Sierra Pacific (29-7, 12-0 ESL) expected to play like a top seed and has shown exactly why the No. 11 seed they were handed was incorrect to say the least.

“I personally feel like we deserve to be home because us being this low of a seed and beating seed No. 1, it’s impressive to most people I guess, but for us we worked hard for this,” Lewis said.

The results so far? Four road games. Four wins. And the latest came at the expense of No. 1 seed Colfax on Tuesday.

The Golden Bears defeated the Falcons 52-39 in the Division IV Northern Regional championship. Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush hoisted the Northern Regional championship plaque to the delight of the Sierra Pacific fans who made the four-hour trek up north.

“I’m so excited for the girls,” Bush said. “It’s always been about the girls. I’m excited for them to step on that court, I’m excited for them to play. … It’s just incredibly exciting.”

Bush, who is now 140-30 in her five seasons at Sierra Pacific, will be making her second appearance as head coach in the State championship. Lewis, Alana Roberts, Kylie Brasil, Cristina Avila, Savvy Torres and Annabelle Saavedra will also be making their second appearance.

Sierra Pacific will be playing for its second state championship in three years after winning it all in 2018. They defeated Lowell 52-26 in the Division V game that year.

“It’s crazy, I just get flashbacks from the year we made it to state and won it and it’s just, like, the greatest feeling you can ever do,” Roberts said. “All your hard work is just paid off and especially since it’s my last year.”

Lewis tied a game-high 14 points and five assists, but it was Roberts who kept the score close when the Golden Bears were struggling to find offense. She scored eight points in the first quarter and closed the period with back-to-back baskets to trim the deficit to one.

“I knew that the team we were playing was small so I knew that I had to take over and not just rely on our guards taking their shots and me getting the rebound,” Roberts said. “I just realized that, ‘I need to dominate this quarter,’ and, ‘It’s mine.’”

Roberts did all her scoring in the first half and finished with 12 points and 20 big rebounds. The senior power forward/center helped the Golden Bears open the second quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 25-16 lead.

But Colfax ended the half with its own 8-0 run to cut Sierra Pacific’s lead to 25-24 at halftime.

“We needed to control the ball and make sure we’re at the same tempo, slowing the ball down because they were at a fast pace,” Lewis said. “We noticed that they started off slow so they were slowing the game down. They started going faster so we had to control the game more. Controlling the game was more important.”

Sierra Pacific came out of the locker room and did what they have done so often this season: The Golden Bears took control of the game in the third quarter.

After the Falcons grabbed a 29-27 lead, the Golden Bears ended the quarter on a 12-0 run started by Saavedra’s 3-pointer. Saavedra scored 12 points and had six rebounds. Brasil and Avila also scored during the run and combined for 12 points and eight rebounds.

“Something that we talk about at halftime every single time is that games are won or lost in the first three minutes of the second half, so you have to come out ready,” Bush said. “If you’re not ready, then another team can just take it away from you.”

Sierra Pacific’s run coincided with Colfax losing Jazzy Owens to what appeared to be a knee injury. Owens led the Falcons with 14 points, while Aliya McCord scored 11 points.

Grace Bliss, a Cal Poly commit who led the Falcons by averaging just over 20 points per game this season, had the worst shooting performance of her career (min. 10 attempts). She went 2-for-21 from the field and finished with her second-lowest scoring performance of her career with five points.

The Golden Bears expanded their lead in the fourth quarter to as many as 14 points on Brasil’s free throws. The Falcons never led after the 4:40 mark in the third quarter and cut the lead to eight in the fourth, but ran out of offense.

The 39 points the Falcons scored tied for their fewest points in a game this season with the other coming in a 51-39 loss in their season opener. It had been a span of 34 games before Sierra Pacific limited Colfax, who averaged 57.3 points per game this season, to the sub-40 mark.

Sierra Pacific handed Colfax (30-5, 10-0 PVL) only its second home loss of the season as the Falcons boasted a 13-1 home record coming into the game. They also put an end to Colfax’s 19-game winning streak.

Colfax won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division V section championship as the No. 1 seed and was the Pioneer League Valley champions with a perfect 10-0 record.

Prior to the game, Sierra Pacific was 1-7 in games when they failed to reach 60 points, but they made it 2-7 after Tuesday’s victory.

Up next:

Sierra Pacific will face No. 1 seed and Southern Regional champions Lancaster (24-8, 12-2 GL) on Saturday at 10 a.m. for the Division IV championship. The state finals will be held at the Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento.

Lancaster defeated No. 2 seed Ontario Christian 46-36 in the Southern Regional championship on Tuesday. Lancaster is making its first appearance in a state championship game.

 Sierra Pacific 52, Colfax 39
 Colfax 14 10 5 10 39
 Sierra Pacific 13 12 14 13 52

Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or ngarcia@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.

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