There was no denying that the Columbia Claim Jumpers had a distinct advantage over the West Hills Lemoore Golden Eagles. While the two teams warmed up, Columbia had 12 players dressed and ready to go. On the other side of the court, Lemoore had only five.
Unless those five Golden Eagles players were actually members of the Golden State Warriors in disguise, barring an unforeseen turn of events, the Jumpers had the game in the bag before the opening tip.
The numbers game, along with 38 points from Columbia freshman Landis Spivey, proved to be too much for Lemoore, as the Jumpers easily won 105-50 Saturday night at Oak Pavilion in Sonora. The 105 points are the most any Columbia team has scored under head coach Rob Hoyt.
With the first two games of the Central Valley Conference season in the books, Columbia is a perfect 2-0. After a 338-mile drive to Cerro Coso Community College that resulted in a 90-84 win on Jan. 4, the Jumpers had a much easier time two nights later against Lemoore.
Hoyt knows that some night his team is going to be in a fight, while others will be more lopsided. For Hoyt, who was the 2017-18 CVC Coach of the Year, as long as his team walks off the court with a win, the final score means nothing.
“We are more concerned with the letters than the numbers,” Hoyt said. “It’s about a ‘W’ and getting it done. I don’t care if it’s ugly or not. Obviously, you want to work towards being at your peak, but sometimes you have to adapt and conquer.”
The strategy against the winless Golden Eagles was a very simple one. Hoyt wanted to wear them down. While Columbia had the luxury of substitution, Lemoore did not. Early in the game, when there were fresh legs on both sides of the ball, Lemoore was able to stick with Columbia.
On a night where the Jumpers scored 105 points, it took nearly three minutes to score the first basket of the game. Spivey and sophomore Yosnier Cobas gave the Jumpers a 4-0 lead, but the Golden Eagles tied things up at 4-4. Columbia extended its lead to 9-4, but that got cut to 9-7 with 13:36 remaining in the opening half.
Over the next 4:32, Columbia went on to outscore Lemoore 20-4. After freshman Seth Coddington scored Columbia’s 11th point, Spivey added the next nine, which included two 3-point baskets.
With a 20-11 lead, the Jumpers went on a 9-0 run, capped by a powerful dunk by freshman Jamiree Williams. With the game quickly getting out of hand, freshman Damian Kress turned things into a laugher. The freshman from Sonora came off the bench and drained three shots from downtown in a span of three minutes and the Jumpers led 42-18.
Kress has forced Hoyt to give him more minutes off the bench with his performance in the past few games and he knows that when he’s given his opportunity, he needs to make the most of it.
“In high school, I got used to coming off the bench and bringing all the energy that I could and be a role player,” said Kress, who finished the night with 12 points. “It’s the same thing here. There are great guys in front of me and I respect that, but I’m still grinding to be the best that I can be.”
Kress proved his dedication to the team late in the game, when he put his body on the line in a situation that most would have avoided. With 4:11 remaining and Columbia leading 99-44, Kress took a nasty charge, which resulted in both players tumbling to the hardwood floor. The referee signaled on offensive foul and Kress stood up clapping his hands, as if he just earned possession for his team in a one-point game.
“That’s who he is and that’s who we want to be as a team,” Hoyt said about Kress. “He only plays one way and it’s the hard way. To sacrifice his body at any time in the game is a big deal, let alone when the game is not in question. That’s where we want to get everyone to be. It’s another area of the game where we are extremely proud of the effort that he put out.”
The first half ended with Columbia holding on to a commanding 53-23 lead.
Spivey led all scorers with 19 points in the first half, so he decided to duplicate that in the second. The tall freshman finished with 38 points and sunk six shots from behind the arc. And when he wasn’t too tired, Spivey managed to slam down two impressive dunks. After coming off a 25-point performance against Cerro Coso, Hoyt couldn't be happier with the offensive production he’s getting from Spivey.
“He always has the green light and is always on,” Hoyt said. “He’ll play like that against the top team in the state and he’ll also play like that if it’s against the bottom team in the state. He took advantage of the opportunity. He’s a really good player and he has a bright future ahead of him.”
As the game continued, the five-man squad of Lemoore started to get tired and had trouble keeping up with Columbia’s fresh bench. As the blowout was on full display, Hoyt didn’t want his players to think it’s OK to stop playing disciplined basketball.
“I just keep it simple and focus on effort,” Hoyt said. “I want to make sure that we are still trying to get to one beat. This was a great opportunity for other guys who don’t get a lot of minutes to go in there and perform. There is no such thing as garbage time. The older you get, you realize that things aren’t equal. What everybody is trying to strive for is an opportunity and when guys get that opportunity, they make the most of it.”
Behind Spivey’s game-high 38 points, Cobas scored 14, followed by Kress with 12, Coddington with 11, Williams with nine, Noel Alexander with eight, Kaden Sparks-Davis with five, Trey Porter with four and Maurice Woods and Ramon Cristwell with two.
After losing three games in a row to end the preseason, Columbia (11-3, 2-0 CVC) is back on the right track. But even with losing three straight, the Columbia players didn’t deviate from the task at hand.
“We try not to dwell on the losses,” said Spivey. “We want to pay attention to what we do for ourselves. These two wins have given us a good push.”
Columbia returns to action at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12 against West Hills Coalinga (6-7, 0-1 CVC).
Contact Sports Editor Guy Dossi at (209) 498-2053 and follow him on Twitter at @GuyDossi.