A nightmare second half came at the wrong time for the Merced College women’s basketball team.
Mt. San Jacinto outscored the Lady Blue Devils 46 to 19 in the second half as the Eagles defeated MC 81-52 in the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship game at Ventura College on Sunday afternoon.
“I think one of the things we struggled with our shot and we got away from what we wanted to do,” said Merced College coach Allen Huddleston. “They hit their shots and dominated the glass.”
After playing the Eagles (32-2) to just a 35-33 deficit after the first half, things quickly unraveled for the Blue Devils (28-6) in the third quarter.
Mt. San Jacinto scored the first 15 points in the third quarter to open up a 50-33 lead. Kaila Gower scored six points during the run.
After being held scoreless in the Eagles’ 71-59 semifinal win over Sierra of Rocklin, Gower exploded for 27 points and 17 rebounds against Merced College.
“She hurt us big time,” Huddleston said. “We did not do a good job of defending her at all.”
Britney Thomas added 22 points and 10 rebounds for Mt. San Jacinto. Teammate Delacy Brown, who scored 41 points in the semifinals, finished with 15 points, seven assists, and six rebounds and was named the tournament MVP.
Merced College couldn’t overcome a poor shooting performance. The Blue Devils made just 18 of 71 shots from the floor (25 percent) and just 10 of 38 from beyond the three-point line (28 percent).
The Eagles also won the rebounding battle 63 to 33.
“I didn’t know it was that close,” said Huddleston, whose team also gave up 52 points in the paint. “They completely dominated the glass. They did something to us that nobody has done to us all season. They beat us up on the glass. They man-handled us.”
Tajaheray McMahan led the Blue Devils with 16 points, with the help of four 3-pointers. Trinity Washington added 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Both McMahan and Washington were named to the all-tournament team.
“I told the team after the game I was extremely proud of them,” Huddleston said. “There is no reason for them to hang their heads. They fought all year long, being undersized and undermanned.
“I was told after the game that we were the first four seed from Northern California to play in the state championship game. I’m proud of them.”