Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat

Find a way.

That was the phrase Columbia College head coach Rob Hoyt wrote on the whiteboard before Saturday's game.

And in a double overtime Central Valley Conference thriller against Reedley College, the Claim Jumpers found a way despite seeing their 13-point halftime lead disappear. Columbia outlasted the Tigers 59-58 in front of a near packed house at Oak Pavilion.

"The teams that win always find a way to win," Hoyt said. "That was not more evident than tonight."

Columbia's Marcus Junior, who moved positions and started at point guard in place of an injured Robert Orantes, drained a shot from beyond the arc off an assist from Rafe King to spark the Claim Jumpers in double overtime.

"I just felt like I took advantage of my opportunity," Junior said. "Rafe made a nice play, he drove in, drew all the attention to him and dished it out to me, and I was able to knock it down."

Up until that basket, Junior, who dropped a team-high eight points in the first half, was held scoreless for nearly 27 minutes. But that scoring drought had no effect on the tough-minded freshman from Fresno.

"That was a huge bucket," Hoyt said. "I have a theory that whoever scores first wins in overtime."

Junior also slotted a free throw and former Summerville Bear standout Rosendo AmayaWood added two clutch shots from the charity line to ice the match.

"It's always good to hit free throws at the end of the game to really seal the deal and put a stamp on the 'W'," Junior said.

Reedley's Demetri Randolph converted a desperation 3 at the buzzer to narrow the score to one, but by then the game was over.

With the victory, the Claim Jumpers snapped a tough three-game losing streak.

"It feels a lot better than a loss," AmayaWood said. "That's for sure. I'm glad and I hope that continues. I'm going to make sure it continues because it's a lot better feeling than losing."

Although Columbia was able to hold off Reedley, it was all Claim Jumpers in the first half.

Behind a vicious defensive attack and steady offense, Columbia led 27-14 at the break.

"Our guys are solid, and they take pride on defense," Hoyt said. "You can sit back and rely on it."

The Claim Jumpers shot better than 47 percent from the field on 8 of 17 shooting and sank three 3-pointers in the opening period. On defense, they allowed just five buckets on 25 attempts and limited the Tigers to a paltry 20 percent from the floor.

The Tiger's 14 first-half points were the lowest total the Claim Jumpers have allowed this season.

At one point, Columbia held Reedley without a basket for more than 12 minutes.

"The defense is built to discriminate runs," said Columbia forward Tige Wingo. "If we keep them out on the perimeter and don't let them penetrate, it's hard to get good shots. We forced them to take some tough shots. Our offense was OK, we were doing OK, but it was really our defense that stepped up. Everyone did a great job, hands up, limiting second-chance opportunities. It was an all-around great effort."

Columbia guard Mike Williams made a layup to begin the second half and extended the team's lead to 15 points, but Reedley picked up the intensity and chewed into the advantage.

"They made a few shots early first half," said Reedley 14th-year head coach Brian Fonseca, a former Columbia assistant from 1990-93 under Denny Aye. "Second half, we just got a little momentum. I think we're pretty even teams. If we play again, it'll probably be another slugfest. ... But it's a little bit tough playing here."

The Tigers went on a 32-16 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes at the4:08mark. They closed out the second half, outscoring Columbia 36-23 to force overtime.

"It was rough for the second half," AmayaWood said. "We shouldn't have let them get to double overtime, but I'm glad we won. We pulled together and put it together."

In the first extra minutes session, both teams netted three points.

"It's fun," Fonseca said. "It was great. It was a lot of fun. Good spirit. The crowd was in it."

Four different Columbia players scored in double figures including Junior, who led the team with 12 points. Both Williams and King tallied 11 and Wingo added 10. AmayaWood chipped in nine and Daniel Radford finished with six.

Claim Jumper freshman forward Ian Merwinski grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds with seven of those coming in the first half.

Walter Orr led the Tigers with 14 points and Andre Frazier notched 13.

The Claim Jumpers (11-13, 4-5 CVC) host their final home game against Merced College (2-19, 1-8 CVC)on Wednesday at 7 p.m.at Oak Pavilion.

"We been preaching it all year," Wingo said. "We always play together. We always pick each other up. We're always fighting. We don't give up. We just kept grinding, and eventually, we knew we would be able to get a shot here and a stop there. It was a really good team effort."