Sonji Green garners a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
And for good reason. The sophomore center has dominated the junior college level for the last two years and is closing in on Merced College’s all-time scoring mark.
So when defenses opt to put the clamps down on Green, it’s up to her teammates to take advantage of the extra space and open things back up. Merced College had no problem doing that on Wednesday night.
Brenai Walker led the charge, scoring 10 of her 12 points in the first eight minutes. The rest of the Lady Devils followed suit as six players finished with at least nine points in an 89-52 rout of Taft at Don Reid Court.
“Everybody knows Sonji by now and that we want to run the offense through her,” MC head coach Allen Huddleston said. “As we move into the playoffs, more and more teams are going to try and take her touches away. If we can get just half of the contributions we got from everyone else tonight, it’s going to be tough for them to stay with it.”
Walker set the tone.
The freshman guard opened her night with a 3, and her steal and layup gave the Lady Devils (17-8, 6-2 Central Valley Conference) a 10-4 lead just four minutes into the game.
It was the start of a big night for Walker, who did a little of everything. She flirted with a triple-double adding eight assists and six steals to her 12 points.
“I was debating whether I was even going to play tonight, because I’ve been having back spasms” Walker said. “Coach told me before the game that I need to be aggressive on offense. I worry sometimes about being selfish, but he said if you’re out there thinking about stuff like that, you aren’t going to score anyway.
“My teammates got me some open looks early and I was able to get going.”
She wasn’t the only one. All eight Lady Devils scored in the opening half, with seven of them contributing at least four points. That allowed MC to go into intermission with a very comfortable 43-26 lead despite a quiet seven points from Green.
The balanced attack continued after the break, with Christina Lotulelei and Presley Ringeisen taking turns doing the heavy lifting.
Lotulelei scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half, with 10 coming in the first 10 minutes. Ringeisen hit three of her four 3-pointers after intermission en route to 16 points.
MC’s only hiccup on the night came with the inevitable letdown of intensity after the half. The Lady Devils’ defensive pressure eased and Taft was able to go on a run. Ramonique Redding (game-high 21 points) and Erica Evans (17) led the way as the Cougars (7-15, 3-5 CVC) trimmed the lead to 15.
Point guard Trinity Washington (10 points) answered for the Devils. Her back-to-back steals and layups sparked a 13-4 run that put that put the game permanently out of reach at 64-40. Green kept it that way, taking advantage of Taft’s divided defensive attention by scoring 10 of her team-high 19 points down the stretch.
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.