COLUMBIA -- Modesto Junior College's athletes took one look at the basketball players from Cabrillo College on Tuesday afternoon and weren't impressed.
Cabrillo's team isn't tall, and doesn't appear overly athletic or quick.
So, the Pirates weren't impressed when Cabrillo took a nine-point lead in the second half, and weren't impressed even after Cabrillo's Maurice Stewart knifed inside for a tip-in at the buzzer to give his team a 61-59 victory.
And therein rests the problem for the young MJC team, which concluded the nonconference portion of its schedule with the loss in the consolation final of the Columbia Holiday Tournament.
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"My team thinks they can tell whether they can win or lose just by how the other team looks," said Modesto coach Paul Brogan. "They haven't proven yet that this vision works, and I can tell you it doesn't.
"I'm not saying Cabrillo is a bad team by any means. But we play to the level of our competition and I think that we definitely are more talented than Cabrillo. That does not translate into wins."
In this game, it almost did.
Modesto trailed 43-34 with 14:04 remaining at the end of a 9-0 Cabrillo run, then proceeded to hold Cabrillo to one field goal in a 19-5 run over the next seven minutes.
Then, once again, the Pirates seemed to relax, just enough for Cabrillo to shoot itself back into the game.
Cabrillo finally took the lead, 57-56, with two minutes left on a fast-break basket following a steal.
But Brett Butler's short jumper after an offensive rebound gave the lead back to the Pirates, who had a chance to take control after Cabrillo (10-10) missed a 3. Butler drove the left side of the lane and bounced a perfect pass to a crashing Nick Storment.
Storment, however, found himself caught in the no-man's land between a dunk and an uncontested layup and blew the chippie with 1:15 remaining.
Cabrillo's Tony Gallo, who led his team with 20 points, drove through three defenders for a layup and the lead with 46 seconds left, and Storment tied the game 59-59 by hitting one free throw with 33.8 seconds left.
That set the stage for Cabrillo's final possession. The Pirates appeared to have made the defensive stop when Steve Williams' eight-foot leaner rolled off, but Stewart sliced between Pirates to tip-in the short carom, just beating the buzzer.
"Every team can play," Brogan said. "Everybody can shoot. These are all the best players from their high school teams, and at some point that lesson has to sink in. They have to reflect these next six days and realize it's not high school anymore."
CHABOT 75, COLUMBIA 67 -- The ClaimJumpers again put their trademark scrappiness on display, cutting a 19-point first-half Gladiators' lead down to four points in the final five minutes.
Much of the lead was erased when freshman guard Jared Lunsford connected on 3-point shots on three consecutive Columbia possessions.
But Chabot to went on a quick 8-1 run to take a 71-60 lead with two minutes to go.