The harsh winter weather may have discouraged some Jumper fans from leaving the comfort of their homes. But those who braved the elements and found themselves inside Oak Pavilion Wednesday night, were rewarded with a great Columbia performance that resulted in a 75-56 win over the Reedley Tigers.
The matchup was the first of the Central Valley Conference season and the Jumpers started off on the right foot. Columbia had won four of its last six games, but one of those losses came last Friday night in a less than stellar performance against San Joaquin Delta College.
The Jumpers wiped away any doubts they might have had after the Delta game and looked prepared for the beginning of conference play.
“It’s very encouraging and it starts things off with a positive note and we can hopefully build off this,” said freshman Elan Spencer.
Although Columbia won by 19 points, the first half was a back-and-forth slugfest. The Jumpers started with a 7-5 lead with five points from sophomore DeAndre Stallings and two points from Eugene Harvey. Harvey later added three points with an and-1 basket to give Columbia a 12-9 lead with 13:38 remaining in the first half.
Columbia freshman Joe Babineaux came off the bench and gave the Jumpers two-points in the paint and the 6-foot-6 forward from Houston, Texas looked primed to have a big night.
With the game tied at 14-14, Ethan McLaurin drained a 3 from the corner from an assist by sophomore Lewayne Grant. McLaurin’s twin brother Eli followed with a strong drive to the rim to give the Jumpers a 19-14 lead.
Up 21-19, Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt could be heard telling his players that the ball had got to go inside. His team listened and 6-foot-10 Spencer took control offensively. Spencer scored off a rebound and followed that with a strong post move that resulted in two points.
Spencer scored the final four baskets of the half, the last of which gave Columbia a 38-37 lead at the break.
During halftime, Hoyt wanted to see improvement from his defense in transition.
“We gave up too many buckets in transition where they had a guy leak out and they had like three dunks because we just didn’t get back,” Hoyt said. “I felt that they had nearly 12 points that they shouldn’t have had. Those are things that you can adjust at halftime. If we could stop them from making those baskets, it could have been a different game, which it was.”
Reedley started the second half with a 5-0 run. Columbia answered with two points from Spencer and Harvey.
But the turning point came with 15:14 left in the game. Trailing 44-42, Grant drove hard to the basket, made his shot and was fouled in the process. Grant gave a long, stone faced stare to the Tiger who fouled him. The referees hit Grant with a technical foul, but that was the spark that the Jumpers needed.
“That was definitely the turning point of the game,” Hoyt said. “I am 100 percent OK with his competitiveness. That’s who he is. He’s a dog and he’s going to go after you. Right after it happened, it changed the way it was officiated. I felt that our guys did a very good job of understanding that and they looked like a veteran team and not a bunch of freshman.”
After the Grant technical foul, Babineaux scored six unanswered points, all down in the paint. Reedley hit a 3 to bring the Jumpers lead to 51-48, but Columbia answered with a 7-0 run capped by a rebound and basket from Spencer.
“I tried to get my positioning right out there on the floor and get those rebounds,” Spencer said. “I had to be the biggest presence out there to help my team win.”
With 7:22 remaining in the game, Columbia led 58-51. The Jumpers went on a 11-0 run with baskets from Spencer, Harvey, Stallings, Jordan Windley and Babineaux put the exclamation point on the run with a powerful dunk. Babineaux missed the past week with a knee injury and his dunk solidified that he was feeling alright.
“I missed a whole week of practice and last week’s game, so my legs were feeling pretty fresh,” Babineaux said. “So I had to get up and throw it down one time.”
Spencer finished the game as the leading scorer with 24 points. Babineaux added another 12. The two combined for 36 points and 10 rebounds. It is the most production Columbia has had in the paint all season.
“The plan going in was to get the ball into that area of the court,” Hoyt said. “It wasn’t necessarily to a certain individual. Our guards did a great job of noticing them and making the passes that they could catch. And our guys did a good job with the ball in their hands and scoring.”
Defensively, Columbia held Reedley to 19 points in the second half. Only one Tiger made more than one shot from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
“We understood that they have one shooter that we wanted to stop,” Hoyt said. “We stopped biting on fakes and we stayed in front with our half court defense. And we limited the transition points, which changed the flow and momentum of the game.”
Stallings finished the night with 12 points and six rebounds. Grant scored nine, Harvey had seven, Ethan McLaurin finished with five, Windley had four points and six assists and Eli McLaurin scored two.
Columbia (7-7, 1-0 CVS) returns to action at 6 p.m. Saturday against the College of Sequoias at Oak Pavilion.