MEN’S BASKETBALL: Giants win share of Central Valley Conference

COS’ Davis White shoots the ball against Columbia this past Saturday. The Giants defeated Columbia, 75-62, to improve to 5-3 in the Central Valley Conference and 17-5 overall.(Norma Foster/COS Athletics)

COS men’s basketball finished the regular season with an 82-58 road win over Reedley; Giants finish 11-3 in league play to clinch a share of their third straight Central Valley Conference title

COS ATHLETICS – College of the Sequoias’ reign as Central Valley Conference men’s basketball champions continues.

The Giants secured a share of their third straight title behind conference co-Most Valuable Player Jose Cuello, who delivered 31 points, seven rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal during an 82-58 victory at Reedley on Feb. 23.

State No. 14-ranked Sequoias (23-5 overall) finished CVC play tied for first with No. 17 Columbia at 11-3, winning seven straight after going 4-3 during the first half of the conference schedule.

The Claim Jumpers (23-5) finished the regular season with a 69-60 home win over No. 24 Fresno City (17-11, 10-4) that knocked the Rams out of a three-way tie for first-place.

Sequoias and Columbia split their two regular season matchups, with the Claim Jumpers winning 83-80 in overtime at home Jan. 31, and the Giants winning 75-62 at Porter Field House on Feb. 3.

Seedings for the Northern California Regional playoffs will be announced Feb. 26, and Sequoias coach Dallas Jensen has said his team has built a resume deserving of a top-four seed.

The Giants should end up seeded ahead of Columbia when factoring in they have a higher Winning Percentage Index (3.154 to 2.654) a higher Non-conference Ratings Percentage Index (.620 to .581), more wins over Top-30 ranked opponents (nine to five) and a greater margin of victory head-to-head (they lost by three on the road and won by 13 at home) than the Claim Jumpers.

Only No. 1 West Valley (28-0, 12-0 Coast South Conference champion), No. 3 San Francisco (23-5, 11-1 Coast North champ) and No. 8 Yuba (26-2, 16-0 Bay Valley champ) have a better WPI than Sequoias, and West Valley, San Francisco and No. 12 San Jose (21-7, 8-4 tied for second-place in the Coast South) are the only teams with a better NCRPI than the Giants. 

The NorCal Regionals begin Feb. 28. If Sequoias lands a top-four seed, they will receive a first-round bye and begin their playoff journey March 2 at home.

The Giants will be out to reach the state’s Elite Eight for the fifth straight championship season.

The Giants put themselves in the conversation for a top-four seed by avenging their 64-63 upset loss to Reedley during the first round of CVC play. The Tigers finished 7-19 overall and 3-11 in the CVC.

Reedley was angling for another upset through the game’s first 5 minutes, leading 14-9 following a 3-pointer by Mitchell Uriarte.

Sequoias, however, responded with a 10-0 run – capped by a 3-pointer by Cuello (Harlem, N.Y.) – to surge in front 20-14.

The Giants outscored Reedley 21-11 the rest of the first half to take a 41-25 lead at halftime.

Sequoias’ lead grew as big as 32 points (82-50) on a layup by Mikey Ficher (Tulare Western) with two minutes and eight seconds remaining in the game.

Jaylon Lee (Las Vegas) also had a big game for the Giants, finishing with 16 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. 

Alex Argandar (Modesto) and Ficher scored nine points apiece for Sequoias, with Argandar adding two rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block, while Ficher also had four assists, three rebounds and a steal.

Sequoias also received eight points and five rebounds from Jaden Haire (Hanford West); six points, seven rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block from Cameron Clark (Gwinnett, Ga.); three points and a rebound from Omari Nesbit (Sacramento); two rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block from Davis White (Santa Clarita); a rebound and an assist from Samuel Bazunga (Paris, France); a rebound from Kion Hayes (Savannah, Ga.) and a rebound from Nati Asfaw (Las Vegas).

In addition to co-MVP and honorable mention all-defense selection Cuello, the Giants had seven other players earn various all-conference honors following voting by the CVC’s coaches.

Haire, Lee and Nesbit were named first-team all-conference, with Haire also being selected the co-Freshman of the Year and Lee named first-team all-defense.

Clark was first-team all-defense, White was freshman all-conference; Argandar was honorable mention all-conference and Ficher was honorable mention freshman all-conference. Jensen was named co-Coach of the Year.

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