It's been six years since the Merced College women's basketball team hoisted its tournament own trophy.
Far too long as far as Lady Devils head coach Allen Huddleston is concerned.
The competition in the annual Lady Devils Coca-Cola Shootout has remained among the best in Northern California. MC, however, has struggled to keep pace.
Turning things around in the 2012 version isn't going to be easy.
Fresno City College, Santa Rosa, Foothill and Cosumnes River all enter the season ranked in the top 10 in Northern California.
Cypress enters the season ranked No. 6 in Southern California. And four of the five rank in the top 11 in the state.
"There's definitely no easy roads," said Huddleston, whose team went 1-2 and lost in the consolation finals to the Rams a year ago. "We're going to have our hands full whoever we play.
"San Jose City and Sacramento City aren't far off, so it should be another good year of basketball."
The three-day, eight-team tournament opens today with Foothill taking on Cosumnes River at 2 p.m. MC will host the nightcap against San Jose City at 8 p.m.
Huddleston's hoping for a better showing than in last week's 78-47 loss to San Joaquin Delta.
"I just want to see us compete better," Huddleston said. "We didn't compete for 40 minutes and that was the most disappointing thing about the Delta game.
"Last week was an eye-opening experience for this team. We just need to be tougher all the way around. We got beat up and didn't really push back.
"You try to simulate it in practice, but the freshmen now understand how physical the junior college game is."
MC should get some help in the return of sophomore post player Ronisha Thomas. The forward averaged 3.6 points and 4.3 rebounds as a freshman.
Thomas was set to redshirt, but opted to play last week.
"She's definitely going to help," Huddleston said. "We get some added size and experience.
"When you're going with only eight players, an extra body can mean a lot."
2012 Lady Devils Coca-Cola Classic
LOCATION: At Don Reid Court
SCHEDULE: Cosumnes River vs. Foothill, 2 p.m.; Fresno City vs. Sacramento City, 4 p.m.; Cypress vs. Santa Rosa, 6 p.m.; Merced vs. San Jose City, 8 p.m.