By DAN GOLDMAN
Start dusting off the record books, because the Columbia College Claim Jumpers are beginning to make the 2001-02 season one for the ages.
Playing their final home game of the season, the Claim Jumpers (26-6) advanced to their first regional final since 1998 by thrashing No. 26 seed Butte College 86-58 at Oak Pavilion on Wednesday night in the second round of the Northern California mens basketball playoffs.
The No. 10 Claim Jumpers will travel to Redding for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Saturday against No. 2 Shasta (28-5), which beat No. 15 De Anza of Cupertino 84-64 on Wednesday. If the Jumpers beat Shasta, a feat they have already accomplished twice this season, they will advance to the State Final Eight for the first time since 1996.
Were not approaching it as a monumental thing, Columbia coach Andy Vasher said. Were approaching it as were just going to play another game. Using the same approach on Saturday as they did against the Roadrunners on Wednesday would be fine. The Jumpers were pleasantly surprised to find themselves with one more home game after Butte (13-17) pulled off the biggest upset of the first round a 73-71 shocker at No. 7 Santa Rosa on March 2.
The Roadrunners looked like decided underdogs in the opening minutes of the game. With Derrick Stewart, Rick Luenberg and Doug Carlson too big, strong and fast for Buttes post players, the Jumpers were able to control the boards and build a 23-9 lead midway through the first half.
The Big Three lived up to their moniker again on Wednesday as Stewart (game-high 21 points), Lueneberg (16 points, including 10 in the first half) and Carlson (seven points) combined for nearly half of the Jumpers offensive output.
They also shut down Buttes 6-6, 230-pounder Nick Basinger. The Roadrunners center, who torched Santa Rosa for 31 points on near-perfect shooting from the field, could only manage 16 against Columbia before fouling out late in the game.