Golden Valley High boys basketball coach Keith Hunter couldn't help but grin with pride.
It wasn't just that the Cougars had closed out the first half of Central California Conference play a perfect 5-0 after Wednesday night's 62-48 victory over Merced.
It was the way Golden Valley got it done at Clemons Court by playing outside of its comfort zone.
"I'm very pleased," Hunter said. "I thought we played very well in a good, tough game. Merced is a physical team, which is not our personality. But we came out and answered right back what they were giving out.
"These are the kind of games I really enjoy watching. It was a man's game."
Merced used the capacity crowd in the cozy confines of its home gym to supply some extra energy as it built a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Travante Richard led the way for the Bears (1-4 CCC, 8-18) with five of his team-high 16 points in the quarter.
Despite shooting an uncharacteristic 4 of 18 from the field in the first quarter, GV (18-4) trailed just six.
The cold hand didn't carry over into the second quarter, as Christian Carroll helped spark a 7-0 run with a 3, putting the Cougars in front.
Carroll (game-high 22 points) helped close the second quarter the way he started it. His jumper from the middle of the key as time expired capped a 10-point quarter and another 7-0 run as Golden Valley took a 29-21 lead into intermission.
It was a deficit the Bears could never make up.
"I told the guys basketball is all about runs," Merced coach Hector Nava said. "If a team goes on one, you have to answer back.
"GV makes a nice 7-0 run at the end of the half and and we were never able to put one together to get it back.
"Either we couldn't finish shots, or we'd hit a couple in a row and not be able to get that third stop."
After being held scoreless in the opening half, Evan Stillahn took over the game in the last 16 minutes.
The junior guard hit three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points.
As he's done so many times in the first half of league play, Stillahn issued an absolute dagger to Merced's comeback hopes.
With a hand in his face and the shot clock down to four seconds, Stillahn sank a 3 to put Golden Valley back up by 10 with just under 3 minutes to play.
"The referees told us at the beginning of the game they were going to let us play," Carroll said. "We knew Merced was going to come out with intensity and coach told us we had to match it.
"Nothing has been won yet. We could go 0-5 in the second half of league, but we feel pretty good to be undefeated right now."
Josh Sykes 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Cougars. Merced's Jonathan Chairez hit a pair of 3s en route to 12 points.