COLUMBIA -- Thomas Richardson hit a buzzer-beating shot to give the Columbia College men's basketball team a 63-61 victory over Reedley in their Central Valley Conference opener Wednesday.
The Claim Jumpers came from 16 points down in the second half to cinch the victory. A third-year sophomore from Enochs High, Richardson was ready when the ball came the length of the floor to reach him.
Reedley (6-8) tied the game with 4.4 seconds left. D.J. Muses took a bounce pass and skipped it to Richardson on the run under the basket.
"It was really pretty special," coach Nate Rien said. "He barely beat the buzzer.
"Our first two league games are at home. You've got to take advantage of the opportunity and we were able to squeak one out tonight."
Jarron Crump started the series of passes that led to the game-winner. He finished with 20 points and eight assists. Ashton Richardson had 17 points and five rebounds. Danny Radford of Bret Harte made two 3-pointers to put Columbia up by two points in the final three minutes.
Rien said the Claim Jumpers (6-9) took almost the entire game to start playing "good basketball" and benefitted from the departure of Reedley big man Sam Milhous, who fouled out with about eight minutes to go.
"He was dominating on boards," Rien said. "He got put back after put back. They struggled a little bit against our full court pressure in the last six to seven minutes (without him)."
Columbia next plays host to Porterville, which began the season 0-12. Rien said it's a "tricky" record though, and Columbia will face a hungry young team eager for a win on Saturday.
"Our guys know they let a few games get away and they're hungry to get better," Rien said. "Porterville is athletic and we're going to have our hands full."