Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat

Columbia College Claim Jumper forward Rafe King was not going to be denied.

With 26 seconds left in the Central Valley Conference openerWednesdaynight, King drained a deep game-winning 3-pointer with a defender drenched in his face to seal Columbia's first league win, a 51-48 nailbiter, over College of the Sequoias at Oak Pavilion.

"It felt perfect," King said. "I saw the guy running after me, but I just focused on my follow through and it went in."

Coming out of their timeout, the COS Giants had one last gasp with 17.7 seconds on the clock, but Columbia's defensive pressure silenced its opponent.

"You just gotta buckle down, and do your thing, and play defense like we were taught," said Columbia forward Rosendo AmayaWood, who was inserted back into the game for the final play. "Our defense holding them those last seconds was nice."

COS got off two shots, then Columbia freshman center Tige Wingo pulled down a tough rebound. Wingo was fouled in the process, and iced the contest with two clutch free throws with just .4 ticks left in the match.

"We did great down the stretch," Wingo said. "We were able to get some defensive stops."

Despite Columbia's narrow escape late, it was all Claim Jumpers in the first half.

The Giants held an 8-6 lead early, but it was short lived.

AmayaWood tied it up with a basket, and the Claim Jumpers followed with a 26-15 run to close out the half.

"In the first half, we were killing it," AmayaWood said. "We were hitting all our shots."

King knocked down three shots from beyond the arc during that stretch and five different players scored.

The Claim Jumpers shot 50 percent from the field on 13 of 26 attempts in the first 20 minutes.

"We were moving the ball around," Wingo said. "Everyone was setting their screens, rebounding, hitting shots - unselfish really, unselfish play. Passing up good shots for great shots. It was really good. We jumped out to a very big lead."

But all of a sudden, Columbia went ice cold.

COS employed its full-court pressure, and executed its zone scheme to near perfection. For the final 4 minutes in the first half, Columbia went without a basket, but still led 34-23 at halftime.

That was a sign of things to come.

The Giants scored on a Chris Smith jumper to open the second half, and their defense held the Claim Jumpers scoreless for over 4 minutes.

"They upped their pressure," said Columbia first-year head coach Rob Hoyt. "You put them in a hole at halftime, and they're going to come out fired up. They're going to deny leads and take easy passes away and make things difficult."

It wasn't until the15:53mark that Columbia scored. Freshman shooting guard Marcus Junior nailed a 3-pointer off an assist from Robert Orantes to extend Columbia's lead to 37-27.

The Claim Jumpers got two more baskets from AmayaWood and Wingo for a 41-34 advantage with11:59left in regulation.

And from there, the scoring drought hit Columbia.

"We had trouble passing," Hoyt said. "We got flustered, and that was a big reason it was like that."

COS finally cracked Columbia's defense and went on a 13-0 run.

Giant point guard Damarhea Bradley recorded a steal and coasted the other way for a breakaway layup to start the rally. Jordan Batts' 3 at4:35gave COS its first lead since the opening minutes, and Smith put the exclamation point for the Giants on a fast-break dunk for a 44-41 advantage.

In a matter of more than 7 minutes, Columbia's 10-point lead evaporated, and Hoyt couldn't believe it.

"I was probably the one who lost the most composure," Hoyt said. "So we talked about it and called a timeout and said, 'Look they're going to score. OK. But we're going to fight, and we're going to keep doing what we're going to do. Do your job.' "

Down by three and struggling to buy a basket, the Claim Jumpers did not back down.

Wingo got Columbia back on track on a 2-point layin with3:52left to trim COS' lead to one.

Giant forward Brantley Bynum hit two free throws, giving his team a 46-43 lead.

Then King, who was hot from long distance all night, tied it at 46 with a clutch 3-pointer.

COS answered immediately on a Chris Ross jumper.

But it was King who was the hero. His 3 with five seconds on the shot clock, and 26 in the contest, gave Columbia its first lead since the clock read5:15.

"That was probably one of the most amazing shots I've seen," AmayaWood said. "He was too deep. That shot went up and it was dead silent. Once it went in, I lost it. I probably jumped higher than I have ever have before."

King scored a game-high 17 points, and made five 3s. Wingo added 15 points.

For COS, Smith was the team's top scorer with 12.

The Giants (5-12, 0-1 CVC) hit the road again to play defending conference champions Fresno City, and the Claim Jumpers (8-8, 1-0 CVC) host West Hillson Saturday at 6 p.m.

"It's been a while since Columbia has beaten COS," Wingo said. "It's a great start, but at the same time, it's over and we have to gear up for the next game."