The Merced College women’s basketball team delivered the knockout blow early to Fresno City College.
The Lady Blue Devils jumped out to a 19-4 lead in the first quarter and coasted to a 65-49 win over the Rams in the California Community College Athletic Association State semifinals matchup.
For the first time in school history, Merced College (28-5) will play for a state championship on Sunday against Mt. San Jacinto at 1 p.m. at Ventura College.
Merced College coach Allen Huddleston started as an assistant coach for Don Reid when the women’s basketball program was started in 1991.
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Huddleston is enjoying the run to the state championship game.
“It’s amazing to me watching (the players),” Huddleston said. “We never get caught up in the moment. They believe in each other. It’s been so much fun for me. It’s truly been a blessing to coach this team.”
Six different Merced College players scored as they jumped out to a 15-4 lead over Fresno City (27-6).
It started with a quick basket by Suzana Shoji. Then Shea Glasglow-Williams and Jordan Pierced drained 3-pointers. Tajaheray McMahan followed with a basket. Ayaka Nakashima came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer right away. Trinity Washington then scored back-to-back baskets and the Blue Devils were off and running.
“Coach is always telling us it’s not just the starting five,” said sophomore Trinity Washington, who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. “Whoever steps on the court has to put in work.”
It was the fifth time the two teams have played this season with the four previous games being split 2-2.
So it didn’t bother Merced College to see Fresno City come out in a zone. The Blue Devils made five 3-pointers in the first half as they built their lead to 37-16 at intermission.
“We just came out and did what we needed to do,” Washington said. “We’ve played them four times. A lot of teams are seeing how fast we are and they’re trying to adjust by forcing us to shoot outside. But we have shooters.”
McMahan led MC with 18 points and Pierced added nine points. All eight Blue Devils players scored.
Fresno City never cut the lead under 16 points in the second half.
Next up for the Blue Devils is Mt. San Jacinto, who defeated Sierra 71-59. The Eagles (31-2) were led by Delacy Brown’s 41 points and 10 rebounds. Britney Thomas added 21 points and 25 rebounds for Mt. San Jacinto, whose only two losses this season came to Palomar, which was the No. 1 team in the state until Merced College upset the Comets 61-59 on Thursday.
“They had two players who put up 62 of their 71 points,” Huddleston said. “Their guard (Brown) is really athletic and quick. If she’s allowed to get in a groove she can score 10 or 12 points really quick. Their post player (Thomas) is the best post I’ve seen in 10 years. She can do so many things with her left or right hand. She can block shots.
“They will be a difficult opponent. For us, it’s about not changing what we do. We have to play fast and speed up the game.”