JUMPERS EASE BY PORTERVILLE

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By DAN GOLDMAN

With nothing left to play for except milestones and seedings, the Columbia College basketball team found just enough energy to post an 82-74 victory over the Porterville Pirates last night at Oak Pavilion.

The win not only clinched third place in the Central Valley Conference, but leaves the Claim Jumpers (19-11, 9-4) one win shy of a third straight 20-win campaign going into Saturday's regular-season finale against Modesto.

If third-place finishes and 20-win seasons aren't enough motivation for the Jumpers, then earning a home game in the first round of the Northern California playoffs certainly should be.

Although trying to guess where the seeding committee will place Columbia in the 32-team bracket is like trying to thread a needle in the dark, Jumpers' coach Andy Vasher thinks his team will ultimately be one of the top 16 seeds and get one playoff game at the pavilion.

"I'd say it's better than a 50-50 chance," Vasher said. "Right now, the top 13 is pretty well set, and 14 through 20 is up for grabs."

Because the seeding committee does everything in its power to keep league teams from facing each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Jumpers are one of seven teams from three leagues the committee is juggling while trying to determine the final three first-round home playoff seeds.

From the CVC, second-place College of the Sequoias (18-10, 11-2) will get a higher bid than the Jumpers. If COS gets in as the 14th seed, Vasher thinks Columbia could slip in at 15 or 16, meaning it would get a home game.

Also in the mix are Shasta of Redding and Lassen of Susanville from the Golden Valley Conference, as well as Sacramento City, Delta of Stockton and American River of Sacramento from the Bay Valley Conference.

The playoff bracket will be released at 6 p.m. Monday.

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