Few teams can match the inside play of Sonji Green and Rogenee Russell.
It's been the Merced College women's basketball team's counter punch to an injury-plagued season.
For the first two and a half months of the campaign, head coach Allen Huddleston could rarely run the same starting unit out in consecutive games.
But the steady play of the freshman duo provided the Lady Devils with stability.
Green led the team with 14.7 points per game and 10. 1 rebounds per game en route to a first-team all-Central Valley Conference nod and a place on the All-State second team. Russell was right behind her with 11.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg, good enough for CVC first-team honors.
Behind the superior play of its front court, MC (18-10) took second place in the CVC and earned the 10 seed in the NorCal Regional.
The Lady Devils will travel to No. 7 Diablo Valley College and face an equally formidable one-two punch in the post in a first-round game tonight. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
"They've got the Big 8 MVP in Annelise Ito," Huddleston said. "She's only about 5-foot-10, but is a very good post player. She averaged 18 points per game and 11 rebounds.
"She's got good footwork and good touch around the basket. We're going to have our hands full."
Ito is complemented by 6-foot-1 center Ty'Jae Chenevert (6.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and a trio of guards that knock down shots from outside or drive to the basket.
"We're really going to need to be aware defensively," Huddleston said. "They do a good job of working the ball into the post, but we have to get out on their shooters also.
"There isn't going to be any opportunities to relax."
Both teams staying out of foul trouble will be essential.
For once, MC enters the contest as the deeper team. Injuries have shortened the Viking (18-10) bench as well, leaving DVC to an eight-player rotation.
Both schools enter the game confident, each closing out the regular season with five straight wins.
"We're a young team, but most of us have through the playoffs in high school," Green said. "We know what it's about. We just have to expect it to be at that next level because it's college.
"I'm just hoping we come ready to play. We've worked hard to get here, and we want to keep going."