SANTA ANA — Allen Huddleston took his team to the beach before last Saturday's championship game at the Santa Ana Tournament
The Merced College women's basketball coach wanted the peaceful setting to relax them ahead of their afternoon tilt with Moorpark College.
Apparently, the side trip did the trick.
MC only trailed a handful of times in the game and came up with the crucial buckets and free throws when they needed them down the stretch in the 45-40 victory.
The Lady Devils (3-3) entered the Santa Ana Tournament winless, but had shown some signs of life with a couple close losses in their own tournament two weeks before.
Still, a run to the title was a bit unexpected.
"We thought we could win our first game, because MiraCosta had really been struggling," Huddleston said. "We knew the other games were going to be really tough.
"It was nice to have 10 players. We came out and played hard and really executed the things we'd been want to do defensively."
Freshman center Sonji Green was named the tournament MVP after averaging over 12 points and nine rebounds for the tournament.
The Lady Devils also got strong showings from Rogenee Russell (9 ppg., 7 rpg.), who was named to the all-tournament team and Verleah Jones (7 ppg., 9 rpg.).
The win may have proven costly, however, with three more players getting injured on an already short bench.
The UC Merced women's basketball team has taken its licks in its first seven games at the varsity level, but freshman guard Shelby Howard has routinely been a bright spot.
Her 18.1 points per games rank second in the California Pacific Conference and she poured in a school-record 35 points in the Golden Bobcats' first varsity victory over Holy Names University.
With that effort, Howard became the first in school history to be named Cal Pac Women's Basketball Player of the Week.
Former Buhach Colony midfielder Laura McIntosh was one of six Fresno City College players named to the all-Central Valley Conference first team.
The freshman helped lead the Rams to a conference title and into the third round of the NorCal playoffs.
Cal State Stanislaus striker Karenee Demery was named to the Daktronics NCAA Division II Women's Soccer All-America second team for the third straight year.
The Merced native led the Warriors and the CCAA with 19 goals and was named the CCAA's Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Year for the second time. Demery was also the Daktronics West Region Player of the Year for a second time. Demery has 54 goals and 20 assists in 59 career games with Cal State Stanislaus.
No repeat for Gleason
Former Buhach Colony goalkeeper Aly Gleason and her Stanford Cardinal were denied in their attempt at a second straight NCAA women's soccer title.
The defending champs were ousted in the semifinals last week with a 1-0 double-overtime loss to storied North Carolina.