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Henry A. Barrios / The CalifornianFresno State's Phillip Thomas watches the play develop against San Diego State Saturday night.

Henry A. Barrios / The CalifornianFresno State's Phillip Thomas watches the play develop against San Diego State Saturday night.

Fresno State senior Phillip Thomas, a Bakersfield High graduate, was named one of three finalists for this year's Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top collegiate defensive back.

The other finalists both hail from the Southeastern Conference: Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks and Alabama's Dee Milliner. The finalists will be highlighted at 3 p.m. today on ESPNU's Home Depot College Football Awards Nomination Special, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 6 on ESPN.

Thomas, who played quarterback for the 2005 Central Section champion Drillers but plays safety at Fresno State, leads the nation with eight interceptions and is tied with Stanford's Ed Reynolds with three picks returned for touchdowns. He has also made 10.5 tackles for a loss, including three sacks, and has forced three fumbles for the Bulldogs (8-3), who can clinch a share of the Mountain West Conference title with a win at home against Air Force on Saturday.

JC volleyball playoffs

Its opponent has changed, but the mindset hasn't for the Bakersfield College volleyball team.

Due to a mistake by the seeding committee, the playoffs were re-seeded Monday, and now the Renegades will host Fullerton College at 7 tonight in a first-round SoCal regional match, instead of the originally-scheduled first-round opponent Antelope Valley.

But BC's mental approach remains the same: being focused for a deep postseason run.

"We've progressed and have been working hard all year," 'Gades coach Carl Ferreira said. "At this point, what you want to do as a coach is eliminate all distractions, focus everyone's concentration on as narrow perspective as you can so you're all in on your goal.

"... There is a little bit more at stake in the playoffs, and you have to play in the moment, point to point. You have to be as strong mentally as you are physically."

BC (20-5, 9-3 in Western State South Conference) finished its regular season by sweeping Santa Monica College Wednesday, and the Renegades were able to lock up the No. 2 seed.

Leading the way for BC is outside hitter Caitlin Bernardin with 396 kills and a 4.89 kills-per-game average, the second-highest average in state. Setter Samantha Whittington leads the team with 850 assists and an 11.64 assists-per-game average, which is also second in state.

"We have not played (Fullerton) this year, but we know they have a very good outside hitter," Ferreira said. "She has good range so we'll have to limit her points. I always tell the team that we'll play anyone at any time.

"I'm just ecstatic that we're at home and that we don't have to travel in order to play."

BC rooter bus planned

Bakersfield College will sponsor a rooters' bus for Saturday's Southern California community college football championship game that will be played at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, near Pomona, BC Athletic Director Ryan Beckwith announced.

BC (9-2), coming off a 48-8 win at Ventura in Saturday's Beach Bowl, faces the 11-0 Mounties, who got a 44-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left Saturday to overcome Saddleback, 12-7.

For information on the rooter bus, call the BC athletic department at (661) 395-4266.