Union Democrat reports

Entering play last week, Columbia was one game out of first place in the Central Valley Conference with two to play and sniffing a second straight playoff berth.

The last six days were not kind to the Claim Jumpers and their fans.

Columbia lost on Wednesday at Merced, were beaten by 20 (91-71) Saturday in the season finale at West Hills, then found out Monday it would not be participating in the state playoffs.

Included in the 18-team Northern California regional bracket are two teams with losing records, No. 16 Cosumnes River (13-16) and No. 15 Sierra (11-17). Both teams, the sixth and seventh place teams, respectively, in the Big 8 conference, have each lost seven of their last nine games.

The Claim Jumpers finished the season 14-11 and 9-5 in the CVC, tied for second place.

“The system is flawed,” said Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt. “It’s frustrating, but we could have won more games. We are definitely a state-level team. It’s just unfortunate and tough to stomach how our conference reps were blinded by numbers.”

Sierra lost all four games against CVC competition this season, twice to Sequoias at neutral sites and to Fresno and Merced in the Fresno Tournament. But the Wolverines also beat No. 2 Feather River (23-3), lost to No. 1 San Francisco (26-2) in overtime and beat No. 9 Butte.

Cosumnes River owns two wins over teams that made the tourney, No. 7 Las Positas (21-7) and No. 10/11 Diablo Valley (20-9). The Hawks also went just 4-10 in league play, with two wins coming against winless Modesto.

No. 18 Lassen might have had a winning record (15-12), but its resume was thin with Las Positas being the signature victory.

Columbia had one victory against teams in the state tournament, No. 4 Fresno, and recorded what looks like four critical losses. The Jumpers lost twice to Merced, the No. 14 ranked team in the bracket, to No. 8 Sacramento City in overtime and to Delta at Oak Pavilion.

All Columbia’s losses came against tournament teams, including South Puget Sound who went 20-4 and finished unbeaten in the Northwest Athletic Conference.

The Claim Jumpers finished the season with a winning record for the third straight season.

Hoyt is 59-48 in his first four years and is 27-23 in CVC play. The nine conference wins were the most in his four years and the team’s tie for second is his best finish.