UCM men have shot at conference title

02/11/2013 11:41 PM

09/11/2014 1:15 PM

UC Merced's come-from-behind men's basketball victory over Menlo College last weekend gave the Golden Bobcats quite a bit to play for heading into the final week of the regular season.

John Sykes' team erased a 17-point deficit to beat the Oaks for the first time in school history and grab a firm hold of third place in the California Pacific Conference standings.

A first-round bye in the Cal Pac tournament and second-round home game remain there for the taking.

If the Bobcats can win out in home games this week against Simpson University (Thursday) and William Jessup (Saturday), they could grab a share of the title.

UCM is going to need some help for that scenario to play out, making second place a more tangible goal.

"We need to win one of our last two games to hold on to third place," Sykes said. "We could be second and have a first-round bye if Maritime loses. And we could have a big mess if we can beat William Jessup and then get some help.

"This is the last year that all six teams make the tournament and I like where we're at. If we can get a first-round bye, then all the better."

The top two teams will earn byes while the other four slug it out in the first round. The higher seeds will host tournament games and the conference winner earns an automatic bid into the NAIA Division 2 tournament.

At the very least, even if UCM can't gain any ground, it's in position to host a first-round game.

"We're playing well and this is the time you want to be playing well," Sykes said. "We've got them coming to our house, and hopefully good things will happen."

The UC Merced women will likely be making their first postseason tournament appearance on the road.

The Bobcat women (2-6 CPC) sit one game behind Cal Maritime (3-5) for fourth place in the standings with two games to go.

Maritime holds the head-to-head tiebreaker after having beaten UCM twice.

Another thing going for Maritime is it closes the season against winless Pacific Union (0-9).

The Bobcats have tough home games against teams with winning records, Simpson (6-2) and William Jessup (5-2).

Finding his range

Allen Huddleston seems to be more comfortable with coming off of the bench for Fresno State.

The former Merced High star has averaged 12.4 points per game over the Bulldogs' last five contests.That's almost three points better than his season average of 9.5 ppg.

He turned in his best offensive performance of the season with a 20-point effort in a loss to Boise State at the end of January.

West Coast feel

The Tabor College baseball team opened the season on Feb. 8 a a Dallas tournament with five former Merced College players in the starting lineup.

Art Corona, Kirk Rocha, Grant Silva and C.J. DeDeaux were all in the field while pitcher Anthony Mendoza toed the rubber for the Kansas NAIA squad. The Bluejays went 2-2 at the tournament.

Crunch time

There's no doubt the Merced College women's basketball team is playoff caliber.

At 14-10, the Lady Devils' record may not reflect that, however.

With a flurry of injuries to start the year, the older Allen Huddleston's squad struggled to find consistency.

Things have stabilized, with MC having won seven of its last eight games. That still hasn't been enough for the Lady Devils to crack the NorCal top 15, though.

In the 2011-2012 season, 18 teams participated in the NorCal Regional Tournament with a couple play-in games. Thirteen teams currently have better records than MC in Northern California. Another six or seven are comparable.

The Lady Devils have four games left on the regular season schedule and could possibly need to win them all.

The biggest game will likely come on Feb. 20 at College of the Sequoias with second place in the Central Valley Conference up for grabs.

If MC can run the table, a second-place showing and 18-10 record should be enough to extend its season.

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