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There was no letdown. No drama. No rallying from behind. No last second block to preserve victory.
Just one team, a lot better than the other, taking care of business.
Any thoughts Columbia might not be emotionally ready after earning its biggest victory in recent memory four days earlier were quickly dashed Wednesday night as the Claim Jumpers started fast and ran over the Cerro Coso Coyotes 90-49 at Oak Pavilion.
Columbia earned an emotional win Saturday over Central Valley Conference leader Fresno City, the first time in many years the Claim Jumpers have defeated the Rams.
“The Fresno thing was great, and you flush it, you get rid of it,” said Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt. “If you lost, you flush it and get rid of it. Just because you win, the only thing that changes is everybody else. We don’t change. We move on.”
Columbia sophomore DeAndre Stallings scored 22 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to lead the Claim Jumpers to their fifth straight Central Valley Conference victory. The scoring leader had 17 points and 10 rebounds at halftime and finished his night with a physical offensive rebound and clever putback which included a foul. He converted the freebie and left the floor moments later with over nine minutes left in the game.
“We fought really hard,” Stallings said. “The key was practice. Getting better each day and focusing on our next opponent.”
There was a five-way tie for second place two weeks ago, but Columbia (13-9, 8-3 CVC) has emerged and stands alone, one game behind leader Fresno (20-6, 9-2 CVC), one ahead of Merced (15-9, 7-4 CVC) and Porterville (10-14, 7-4 CVC).
Columbia will host Porterville in its final regular season home game at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“That game is going to be huge,” Hoyt said. “Porterville is the hottest team in the league and they were in our face like no other team,” he added about a 7-point loss to them on Jan. 18.
Columbia came out of the starting gate fast Wednesday, sprinting to a 20-5 lead capped by a Jordan Windley drive to the basket for a layup and foul.
Cerro Coso got to within 23-11, but the Jumpers went on a 20-3 run that made the lead 40-11 with under five minutes left in the first half.
It was 42-16 at halftime.
To start the second half, the teams forgot, briefly, what direction they were headed. The result ended up in a wide open Eli McLaurin 3 from the top of the key.
Eli, and his brother Ethan, have been key to Columbia’s five-game win streak according to Hoyt.
“Those two, before the West Hills game we just kinda let them loose,” Hoyt said. “We told them there’s no such thing as a bad shot. Whenever you get it … that night they each had four 3s and since then they’ve each had at least two in every game.”
Ethan drained four from long distance and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Eli also ended the night with four from beyond the arc and had 14 points on the night. His final 3 was the last points of the night, was delivered in front of the Jumpers’ bench and was banked in off the glass.
He gave a wry smile and shrugged his shoulders while the bench celebrated.
The Jumpers cruised to victory with injured star Lewayne Grant who rolled an ankle Saturday in the first half.
He went through pre-game warmups and looked ready to play if Hoyt needed him.
“I don’t like it when he’s not out there,” Hoyt said. “He’s an extension of me. He can look at me and know what I want. We obviously want him back, but that said, Jordan has more than proven he can take care of that position if needed. Ideally we’d like them out there together.”
Windley was terrific running the Columbia offense. He finished with 16 points and nine assists.
Also for the Jumpers, Elan Spencer had 10 points and five rebounds and Eugene Harvey scored 10 points and pulled down nine boards.
“We have a very good focus about us. We’re playing extremely well and Saturday is going to be a the biggest game of our year,” Hoyt said. “A lot of people viewed Fresno like that. But it wouldn’t have hurt if we lost to Fresno, we weren’t expected to win. It’s a domino effect. We just gotta take care of us.”