Amaya Ervin doesn’t have an off switch.
The Merced High junior point guard hits the floor with nonstop aggression. It’s on the defensive end where she shines. When there is an opportunity for a steal her eyes light up.
Just watch her eyes as she stalks her prey. Her eyes are always on the ball as her opponent dribbles up the court. She watches the ball bounce up and down intently, as she waits for the right moment to strike.
“I don’t know how I get the steals,” Ervin said. “I just look at the ball. I want it. So I go get it.”
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Ervin showed why she can be a point guard’s nightmare, recording 11 steals to go along with a game-high 20 points in leading Merced to a 58-33 win over previously unbeaten Los Banos on Tuesday night on Clemons Court.
The Tigers (4-1) didn’t have an answer for Ervin or any of the Merced pressure as Los Banos turned the ball over 36 times.
“They were aggressive against us and we didn’t respond well,” Tigers coach Danny Crosby said.
Ervin’s up-close, in-your-face style of defense can often lead to foul trouble. She gambles a lot by reaching with her long arms for steals. While those gambles pay off plenty of times with steals, one wrong swipe could also lead to foul trouble.
That was the case early against Los Banos when Ervin was whistled for her second foul with 6 minutes and 9 seconds left in the second quarter.
Merced’s first-year coach Art Solis pulled her from the game.
“Usually I let her play,” Solis said. “It depends on the game and I’ll be honest with you, it depends on how smooth the refs are. There’s been a couple games I’ve pulled her out with two fouls and waited until the second half to put her back in. But you have to trust your point guard.”
Solis didn’t sit Ervin long against the Tigers. She returned to the game with 5:05 left in the first half and she didn’t pick up a foul the rest of the way as Merced took a 26-13 lead into intermission.
Why is it so important for the Bears to have Ervin on the floor?
So she can do what she did in the fourth quarter, scoring the first nine points of the quarter for Merced to help open up a 50-28 lead with 4:33 left in the game.
“It’s very important I’m out there,” Ervin said. “I’m pretty good on defense. I’m the point guard. I play an important role on this team.”
Solis doesn’t want her to change her game.
“I love it,” he said. “I’ve always been that type of coach. If we’re not going to be aggressive why are we playing sports? I have that football mentality. The same way I coach football, I coach basketball. To me, if you’re not going to play aggressive, you’re going to play lazy or play too comfortable.”
Ervin says that when she is out on the court playing with foul trouble she doesn’t have to change her game.
“I just have to concentrate,” she said. “I have to focus a little bit. I have to pick up my feet instead of reaching.”
The Bears were in control from start to finish against the Tigers. Merced built a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and Los Banos never cut the lead under 10 points the rest of the way.
Jada Johnston and Sierra Smith added nine points each for Merced.
Suzanna Pena paced Los Banos with 12 points.
Ervin showed off what she said is her biggest improvement from last year, hitting two 3-pointers against the Tigers. Ervin has been holding up her end on the offensive side this season as well, averaging 14.8 points per game through five games.
“I have confidence in my shot now,” she said. “Last year all I did was drive. I can do both now.”
Atwater 74, Mariposa 46 in Mariposa – Lexi Valencia scored 16 points and teammates Marisa Martinez and Kelsey Valencia added 11 as the Falcons improved to 4-2 this season.
Bret Harte 4, Stone Ridge Christian 2 in Merced – Greg Viveiros had 15 saves as the Knights dropped to 1-1-1 on the season. Bryce Louters added a goal and an assist and Marco Azevedo scored the other SRC goal.