Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt said a couple of weeks ago that Columbia needed to finish in second place to make the playoffs, and even then it’s not guaranteed. The Jumpers had not earned a “quality” win, the coach had said.
But that’s when Columbia started its win streak and before the Jumpers dumped Central Valley Conference leader Fresno.
Now, with six consecutive victories in their pockets after Saturday’s 85-66 thrashing of Porterville, the Claim Jumpers sit just one game behind Fresno for the top spot in the CVC, and two ahead of Wednesday’s opponent Merced.
The win streak has pushed the Claim Jumpers into the California Community Colleges Men’s Basketball Coaches Association top 20 poll for the first time this season at No. 20. They are ranked 10th in northern California.
It looks like the Claim Jumpers may reach the postseason for the second straight season after erasing 16 years of playoff drought last year. They could also possibly grab a share of their first league title since 1995.
“Right now, I’d say we’re in,” Hoyt said, but cautioned that there are two road games left and one is against the only league team the Jumpers haven’t beaten, Merced.
“They’re good, talented and tough to defend. We wanna win Wednesday to make Saturday interesting, but that is secondary to beating them because they beat us the first time. In our minds, they own us. We’re gonna be fired up.”
Sophomore night Saturday at Oak Pavilion was just that. Columbia’s three sophomores combined for 65 points.
DeAndre Stallings scored 26 points, Lewayne Grant added 20 and Eugene Harvey netted 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Columbia’s final regular season home game.
Stallings connected on 6 of 12 from beyond the arc and also pulled down seven rebounds. Stallings is third in the league in scoring (17.7) and rebounding (8.7).
“The sophomores showed up and inspired us,” Hoyt said. “But we’re really playing well as a team. Jordan (Windley) almost had a triple double. The McLaurin twins (Eli and Ethan) do so much for our team and Joseph Babineaux had a big dunk. Then DeAndre followed that with a 3 which kinda broke their backs. It was a good crowd and pretty loud.”
Windley scored 12 points, dished eight assists and hauled in seven rebounds.
Eli McLaurin and Ethan McLaurin scored just three points apiece, each hitting a 3-pointer on a combined seven attempts. Ethan McLaurin pulled down nine boards while Eli had five.
The twin brothers entered the game on fire from beyond the arc. Ethan McLaurin had hit 16 of 32 3-pointers over the last five games and averaged 13 points to raise his season mark to 7.3 points per contest.
Eli McLaurin had connected on 11 of 23 long distance attempts and had averaged 9.2 points per game to up his mark to 5.5.
Columbia hits the road to end the season, Wednesday at Merced (15-10, 7-5 CVC) and Saturday at West Hills (13-11, 5-7 CVC). Merced beat Columbia by double digits earlier this season at Oak Pavilion.
Fresno (21-6, 10-2 CVC), ranked No. 12, finishes the regular season this week against playoff bubble teams, Wednesday at Porterville (10-15, 7-5 CVC) and Saturday at Sequoias (12-14, 6-6 CVC).
“It’s exciting, we’re really clicking right now,” Hoyt said. “We’re sharing the ball and playing well as a group, as a family.”