Contra Costa College's women's basketball tournament -- the Comet Classic -- will tip off Thursday, and the host team has an exciting story to share with its guests.
That's because the Comets zoomed into orbit last week by shocking defending state champion Mt. San Antonio College-Walnut 80-76 in the third place game of the Ventura Tournament.
Mt. SAC, which has won five of the past eight state titles, was the unanimous No. 1 pick in the preseason state poll after finishing 34-0 last season. Contra Costa, coming off a fourth-place finish in the Bay Valley Conference, registered barely a blip in the North Region preseason rankings.
However, in the latest poll, the Comets (4-2), who have lost only to SoCal powers East Los Angeles and Ventura, vaulted to No. 11 in the North.
Guided by veteran coach Paul DeBolt, guard-laden Contra Costa has just nine healthy players.
"But it's a good nine," DeBolt says.
The dynamic trio of Jewel Rogers, Ahjahna Coleman and Raven Caldwell combine to average 57 points a game. The Comets play a voracious up-tempo offense, like five angry bees converging on a jar of honey hanging from the rim.
DeBolt says he switched to a more aggressive offensive system this season.
"The kids are having fun playing it," DeBolt said. "It's very up-tempo now, and it's given us a kind of a shot in the arm."
The Comets are second in the state in scoring at 87.8 points a game. Diablo Valley is first at 98.7.
Coleman, a freshman out of McClymonds High, had 29 points in the Comets' 104-57 win over Porterville on Nov. 17, when the Comets set a school record for 3-pointers in a game with 17. The day before, they set a school mark for free throws made with 46 in a 98-71 win over Reedley.
The eight-team Comet Classic will open with four games: College of the Siskiyous-Weed (3-1) vs. Mission-Santa Clara (4-4) at 2 p.m.; Diablo Valley (3-0) vs. Los Medanos (2-1) at 4 p.m.; Chabot (1-4) vs. Laney (1-4) at 6 p.m.; and Ohlone (3-2) vs. Contra Costa at 8 p.m. The semifinals and consolation rounds are Friday, with the championship game at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
RENEGADES COOKING: The Ohlone men's basketball squad has won seven in a row. The Renegades (7-1) handed DVC (5-1) its only loss 67-53 in the Shasta Invitational.
Los Medanos (5-0), Chabot (6-1) and Merritt (5-3) are also off to sharp starts. Chabot entered the week leading the state in field-goal percentage at 54.7 percent.
Ohlone's intriguing roster boasts seven players from overseas, but the Renegades are led by homegrown sophomores Casey Norris of Newark Memorial, Andy Mitchell of Moreau Catholic and Marcelus Clay of Oakland.
Norris, a point guard, is averaging an economical 12 points and six assists in just 19 minutes a game.
"He's shooting it well," coach John Peterson said. "He makes so many good decisions with the ball in his hands, and he wants the ball in his hands. He's been phenomenal. We're really good when he's on the floor."