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Jumpers lose big lead, fall to Pirates

At one point, the Columbia College men’s basketball team held a 21-point lead, but it evaporated, and the Claim Jumpers fell 64-61 to Porterville College on Saturday.

“I’m really proud of them for how hard they played,” said Columbia first-year head coach Rob Hoyt.

Porterville took an early 5-3 lead, but the Claim Jumpers offense soon caught fire.

Columbia forward Tige Wingo sank a jump shot at the 16:50 mark to spark an impressive 17-0 run.

“We were executing our offense, and they were kind of sitting back,” Hoyt said. “We really just ran the offense really well. It was hard for them to stop everything. Everybody was open. There was a good flow to what we were doing.”

During that stretch, five different players scored and freshman guard Rafe King led the team with five points, including a shot from beyond the arch to give Columbia a commanding 20-5 lead with 10:14 on the clock.

The Claim Jumpers solid zone defense was able to hold the Pirates scoreless for more than 7 minutes until Malik Muhammad converted two free throws at 9:52.

“The guys have been playing great on defense all year,” Hoyt said.

Columbia kept building on their advantage, and with under 3 minutes to play held a 34-13 lead.

But Porterville, in its final home game, did not simply fold.

Portervillle picked up the tempo and increased its aggressive and attacking full-court pressure.

“They took their pressure up towards the end,” Hoyt said.

The Pirates pounded at the Claim Jumpers lead and went on a 9-0 run to close the first half. 

Columbia’s lead was trimmed to 34-22 at the break.

And in the second half, Porterville kept that momemtum.

The Pirates outscored Columbia 34-17 and grabbed a 56-54 lead with 5 minutes left in the game.

“They took us out of our offense,” Hoyt said. “We didn’t run a lot of sets. We turned the ball over 12 times in the second half. Kind of shot ourselves in the foot there.”

Columbia retook the advantage on a Wingo free throw at 2:36, but Porterville’s Adam Armstead dropped three points and gave the Pirates a 62-60 lead they would never relinquish.

Claim Jumper Rosendo AmayaWood drained a free throw to cut the gap to one, and Porterville made it a three-point game when Howard Kellen tossed in a layup with 17 seconds remaining.

Columbia guard Marcus Junior’s game-tying 3 at the buzzer fell short, but it wasn’t the designed play Hoyt wanted to run. 

The Claim Jumpers were planning to attack the basket and drive the ball to the hoop, but they were unable to find an open lane and the ball ended back in Junior’s hands.

“They crawled up into us,” Hoyt said. “Made us uncomfortable. We weren’t able to communicate and execute the way we normally do. They took us out of our comfort zone.”

King led the team with 14 points and Wingo chipped in 13. Mike Williams finished with 12 and Junior added eight. Both AmayaWood and Wingo each hauled in seven boards.

The Claim Jumpers shot nearly 49 percent from the field on 20 of 41 attempts, and converted 87 percent of their free throws.

Armstead recorded a game-high 16 points and Jarred White tallied 13. Marvin Cyrus dropped all 12 of his points in the second half for Porterville. Cyrus went 4 for 4 from 3-point range. The Pirates scored 27 points off of turnovers.

Columbia (12-14, 5-6 Central Valley Conference) ends its season on the road against Fresno City College (25-2, 9-1 CVC) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“It’s our playoff game,” Hoyt said. “We get to play a very good team. We get to close out the year together. It’s one of our last practices together. Wednesday is our last game together. Some guys will be back and they will play very big roles for us next year, and some guys will be moving on.” 

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