Win one, lose one is once again the case for Porterville College men’s basketball team after the Pirates lost Saturday’s Central Valley Conference game 90-72 to the visiting Claim Jumpers of Columbia.
Coming off a 79-55 win over Merced (7-7, 1-1 CVC) Wednesday to open CVC play, the Pirates (8-8, 1-1 CVC) struggled from the beginning against the state’s No. 4-ranked Jumpers.
They trailed for the first eight minutes until PC’s Chirrag Sidhu scored and put the game even at 18-all. Columbia hit a 3-pointer to retake the lead but it was shortened to one point after another score from the Pirates. A steal and layup by Tayshwaun Bradford put Porterville up 22-21 with 11 minutes, 14 seconds to play but it would be the first and last lead of the game for PC.
“I thought that offensively, for us, we could get anything we want in the first half,” PC head coach Rob Haynes said. “We just didn’t need to settle. The goal was to get to the free throw line. There was a bonus, I think it was seven, eight minutes to go in the second half, and we only got to the free throw line one more time after that. We stopped doing what we were doing to either tie the game or get that lead early.”
The Pirates shot well from the free throw line but hardly ever made it there. They were 10-of-11from the line but Sidhu, who led the team with a season-high 18 points and attacked the basket, didn’t go once. However Bradford did go 4-of-5 from the line and finished with 13 total points.
“Tayshwaun is playing unbelievable right now,” Haynes said. “He’s playing like a leader. I don’t know how many times he hit the pavement out there....and the people here appreciate that because, blue collar town. And Chirrag is playing well.”
Kenton Lei also had success in the paint but scored all 10 of his points in the first half.
Porterville trailed 48-34 at the half but cut Columbia’s lead to nine twice midway through the second half with Dustin Henderson playing lights out. Off the bench he scored 13 of his 15 points in the later half.
“He’s going to give us a spark off the bench,” Haynes said about Henderson. “He’s a bench player playing starter minutes. Once he gets going, he’s going. Nobody can stop him. I mean I don’t care who you is, he’s going to figure out a way to put the ball on the hoop. Whether it’s a bad shot, good shot, crazy shot, he’s going to make it happen.”
In the second half, Haynes pointed out another thing besides drawing fouls the Pirates missed late in the game: taking advantage of Columbia when they had their bigs out and the lead was down to single digits. They were still pulling up for shots outside of the paint and as Haynes put it, went for home runs instead of singles.
“And you can’t do that against a good team,” Haynes said. “You gotta go body blow, body blow and at some point you’ll knock ‘em out. Good teams like that, top ranked teams, they not going to lose the game early. You gotta take it from them. And I think that, we kind of had a look that we was defeated. And I think that, maybe I did too as well. We’ll get a second chance to play them. It’s going to be tough over there. We just have to have a different approach to it.”
Although Columbia is the fourth-ranked team in the state since the rankings came out on Jan. 6, they were still a team PC could’ve beaten with better shot selections and better defense. They may have done a decent job against some of the Jumpers best players, but still allowed Deshawn Bartley, a player averaging 6.7 points a game, to score a game and season-high 30 points.
Somehow the Pirates have to move on from this game and prepare for West Hills Lemoore (2-14, 0-2 CVC) and No. 10 Fresno (13-3, 2-0 CVC) on the road Wednesday (Jan. 15) and Saturday (Jan. 18), respectively. The Pirates have only won two games in a row once in mid-December, and in this conference, doing so again won’t be easy.
Lemoore may be on a seven-game losing streak but against Merced Saturday, they only lost 80-78 and at Reedley (11-5, 2-0 CVC) Wednesday, they lost just 74-70. Fresno also looks like the team to beat in the CVC as they defend their crown once again. The Rams are already 2-0 against the conference’s top teams with an 87-67 win against Columbia Wednesday — the Jumpers only loss this season — and a 72-53 beating of No. 8 College of the Sequoias (12-4, 1-1 CVC).
“Lemoore is going to be tough,” Haynes said. “They lost to Reedley by four the other night and Reedley’s pretty good. … You’re going to have the big bad wolf in Fresno. If we come with a mindset defensively how we did tonight, we’re not beating anybody. And that’s just what it is.”