Even coach Jeff Bickmore seems a little baffled by Bear River's success in girls basketball.
The Lake of the Pines school of 850 students, which has won 10 Sac-Joaquin Section girls championships through the years, will make its 14th trip to the finals after beating previously unbeaten Argonaut 42-39 in overtime Wednesday in the Division IV semifinals at Tokay High School in Lodi.
"It's kind of funny because we get our kids from one tiny junior high (Magnolia) just down the street," Bickmore said. "We don't get the tallest kids or the super stars. But we do get good, smart kids who have always worked hard and put the time in."
The top-seeded Bruins showed all those attributes in outbattling an Argonaut team that entered 29-0 and with a collective chip on their shoulders for a paltry No. 4 seed.
But the Bruins compete in a strong Pioneer Valley League that saw fellow tri-champions Colfax and Placer also reach semifinals in D-IV and D-III, respectively.
So despite being held to 10 second-half points and losing their best player, junior forward Kaitlyn Reina, to fouls midway in the fourth quarter, Bear River prevailed in typical fashion.
Unsung Maddi Dunn and Cindy Solomon, who had combined for three points in regulation, combined for five to open the overtime and that would prove enough.
Sarah Hagar led Bear River (26-3) with 12 points and Savannah Welz added 11 as the Bruins celebrated their 65th section playoff win and will play No. 3 Bradshaw Christian 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena.
"I'm really happy for our three seniors (Solomon, Welz and Hagar)," said Bickmore, who won D-IV section titles in 2006 and 2007 after Duwaine Ganskie, now the boys coach, won a total of eight in two divisions from 1990 to 1998.
In other Division IV games at Tokay:
Bradshaw Christian 51, Colfax 46 (girls) - Baskets by Erika Bean and Jordyn Bell enabled the third-seeded Pride to hold off the second-seeded Falcons after Taylor Avila's all-net three-pointer closed Colfax to 47-46 with 2:06. Kaila Tremoureaux led Colfax (20-10) with 19 points; Bean topped the Pride (26-3) with 17. It also was Bradshaw Christian's 20th consecutive win, many of them coming by large victory margins in the Sierra Delta League. "I'd much rather be in a close game and that was a great game," said Bradshaw coach Mike Ruble. "Colfax did an awesome job, hit big shots and we got a chance to learn from it." It will be Bradshaw Christian's fifth section title appearance in six seasons. The Pride won four consecutive D-V section titles from 2007-2011.
Liberty Ranch 64, Colfax 59 overtime (boys) - Michael Meserole scored seven of his game-high 30 points in overtime and DeAndre Stallings had 22 points, including six three-pointers, as the No. 4 Hawks (22-8), in their third varsity season, defeated the top-seeded Falcons (24-6). Will Buell and Matt Larson combined for 34 Colfax points. Liberty Ranch will play Summerville 3 p.m. Saturday at Sleep Train Areana for the championship.