MEN’S BASKETBALL: Giants dominate West Hills-Coalinga

COS’ Jaylon Lee makes a pass against Merced this past Wednesday night. After coming back to defeat Merced, 66-57, the Giants improved to 6-3 in the Central Valley Conference.(Norma Foster/COS Athletics)

COS men’s basketball wins 100-48 at home this past Saturday; the Giants now control their own destiny to clinch at least a share of the Central Valley Conference with a conference record of 9-3

COS ATHLETICS – Not only is the Central Valley Conference championship within reach for College of the Sequoias men’s basketball team, it’s under the Giants’ control.

Sequoias remains one game out of the conference lead following a 100-48 rout of West Hills-Coalinga on Feb. 17 at Porter Field House.

The state No. 14-ranked Giants (21-5, 9-3) are tied for second place with No. 17 Columbia (21-5, 9-3) behind CVC-leading and No. 24 ranked Fresno City (17-9, 10-2).

Sequoias plays at Fresno City at 5 p.m. Feb. 21 and at Reedley (6-18, 2-10) at 5 p.m. Feb. 23 to close the regular season.If the Giants are able to win out, they would do no worse than tie either Fresno City or Columbia for a third straight CVC title.

They would share with Fresno City by winning both remaining games and the Rams winning at Columbia on Feb. 23. They would share with Columbia if both teams win out, including the Claim Jumpers’ home game Feb. 21 against No. 27 West Hills-Lemoore (17-8, 7-5).

Sequoias would win the title outright if it wins out combined with Columbia losing to West Hills-Lemoore and beating Fresno City.

The Rams have won six straight since their last loss, 79-62, against the Giants on Jan. 27 in Visalia.

“They are playing really, really good basketball at the right time of the year,” Sequoias coach Dallas Jensen said of Fresno City. “That’s a tough environment to play in. So we’ve just got to go in and worry about ourselves and try to be the best version of who we are. And hopefully after 40 minutes, we’ll have a few more points than them.”

The Giants are starting to play good basketball, too, as the postseason nears.

Sequoias has won five straight games – all by a margin of nine points or more – after losing three games by one score during the first half of CVC play: 83-80 in overtime to Columbia, 69-67 to Merced and 64-63 to Reedley.

“I really like how we’re playing,” Jensen said. “We’re very sound defensively. We’re rebounding it really well. We’re playing tough and physical and sharing the basketball on the other end. We just have to continue to play to our strengths and hopefully bounces will go our way and we’ll get that one done on (Feb. 21).”

The latest conquest saw the Giants trade baskets with West Hills-Coalinga (7-18, 1-11) through the game’s first six minutes before a jumper by Jose Cuello (Harlem, N.Y.) put them ahead to stay at 10-9.

Omari Nesbit (Sacramento) sank three 3-pointers during a 14-2 Sequoias’ run that saw it go from a 9-8 deficit to a 22-11 lead with 10 minutes and 54 seconds left in the first half.

The Giants lead swelled to 24 points (46-22) with nine seconds left in the first half on a dunk by Cameron Clark (Gwinnett, Ga.) off an assist by Alex Argandar (Modesto).

Sequoias continued expanding its lead throughout the second half until it hit its zenith at 54 points (94-40) following a pair of free throws by Jaden Haire (Hanford West) with 2:16 left in the game.

“Since playoffs are coming up, we had to step it up,” Nesbit said. “We weren’t so laid back in this game. We wanted to beat them by a lot.”

On a night the Giants honored sophomores Nesbit, Cuello, Argandar, Clark, Jaylon Lee (Las Vegas) and Samuel Bazunga (Paris, France), all contributed against the Falcons.

On a night the Giants honored sophomores Nesbit, Cuello, Argandar, Clark, Jaylon Lee (Las Vegas) and Samuel Bazunga (Paris, France), all contributed against the Falcons.

Cuello contributed 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal; Clark had 12 points, nine rebounds, four steals and a block; Lee had nine points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals; Argandar had five points, 10 assists and four steals; while Bazunga had four points and four rebounds.

Sequoias also received 11 points and three rebounds from Haire; 10 points, five rebounds and two assists from Kion Hayes (Savannah, Ga.); six points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal from Davis White (Santa Clarita); and four points, four assists, three steals and three rebounds from Mikey Ficher (Tulare Western).

“It was fun to let our sophomores play together for longer stretches tonight and see them do well and enjoy their time on the floor,” Jensen said. “And the guys that were coming off the bench were fantastic tonight, good energy, being good teammates and they were ready when their number was called. All around it was a really good performance on both ends and by everybody that stepped onto the floor.”

The Giants are poised to be selected to the Northern California Regional playoff field for the sixth consecutive championship season when pairings are announced Feb. 25.

With the third-best Winning Percentage Index and fourth-best Rating Percentage Index among teams in NorCal, a top-four regional seed as well as the first-round bye and potential two home games that come with it, remains a possibility for Sequoias.

The Giants have made the state’s Elite Eight in the last four championship seasons.

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