COLUMBIA — Let the record show that the Columbia College Claim Jumpers defeated De Anza of Cupertino 61-56 Wednesday night.
And then it got nasty.
About 15 minutes after the postgame handshakes, members of both teams and several fans exchanged blows outside the Oak Pavilion and Tuolumne County Sheriffs deputies were summoned to bring order. De Anza (2-11), frustrated by its second loss in as many nights and its second loss to the Claim Jumpers this season, eventually motored home.
By the way, the game was hard-fought, too.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
“Men being boys,” summarized an exhausted Columbia coach Nate Rien, who chased his team—with help from assistant coaches James Blake and Chris Cline-- back into the arena to end the fight. “Life’s too short.”
So ended the community college portion of the Robert Dominik Fuchs Memorial Holiday Classic. Columbia (6-8), which already has won as many games as all last season (6-22), swept both games of the three-team round robin. No word on whether or not they won the “overtime” in the parking lot, but they’ll take the win on the court.
The Claim Jumpers once again nursed a precarious lead through the tense final minutes. When point guard Bobby Monges (17 points) fouled out with 2:08 left, a comfortable 16-point advantage had melted to five. De Anza, pressing all over the court and forcing turnovers, sensed a chance.
Columbia somehow pieced together an offense with forwards Pat Rien, 6-6 John Sykes and 6-7 Evan Scott handling the ball in the back-court. Scott (14 points) connected on four free throws in the last 20 seconds, sandwiching an airballed bid for the tie by De Anza’s Austin Raub.
“We’re going to have to grind out every single win. We know that,” Nate Rien said. “It wouldn’t be us if we did it any other way.”
Columbia builds a lead nearly every game. That’s a good thing for the Claim Jumpers to remember as they open Central Valley Conference action Wednesday night at home against West Hills. Maintaining leads, or failing in the quest, will define them in the CVC. Free-throw shooting continues to be uncertain. Columbia, which hits only 58 percent for the season, made only 13 of 29 against De Anza.
“We just like entertaining and giving our coaches gray hair,” said Monges, 26, a football and baseball player for Modesto Junior College eight years ago. “If I didn’t shave my head, I’d have gray hair, too.”
Gray hair or not, Monges’ 3-point marksmanship keyed Columbia in its tournament wins. Columbia swished four straight, two by Monges, to lead 43-27 with 14:57 left. Later, De Anza’s momentum was stunted when it blew a 3-on-0 fast break, resulting in a triple by Monges at the other end. Steven Cockrum, a freshman guard from Lodi, topped De Anza with 12 points.
“If we can slow down and take care of the ball, we’ll put teams away,” Monges said.
The all-tournament team included Columbia’s Pat Rien, Scott, Sykes and Monges; Bobby McCarthy of Canada and Manny Martin of Canada.