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Merced's Huddleston scores 32, amazes opponents in home opener

The only things that slowed Allen Huddleston were the new rims hanging in the Merced gym.

The Merced junior struggled from outside -- hitting just 1 out of 10 from beyond the 3-point line -- against Fairfield Armijo on Tuesday night.

However, he was nearly unstoppable inside the arc.

Huddleston slashed his way to a 32-point performance as Merced defeated Armijo 70-65 in its season opener.

"I've got to get used to the new rims," Huddleston said. "We've only had two practices since they put them in. Once you start missing them, it gets in your head and you start thinking about it."

Merced played without its leading scorer, Jarrett Sparks -- who is still recovering from mononucleosis. Sparks may be cleared to practice this week.

Without his cousin at his side, Huddleston easily picked up the slack.

Armijo defenders couldn't keep Huddleston from getting to the basket.

After watching Huddleston rack up 17 points in the first half, Armijo opened the second half in a zone.

"He's a real good player," Armijo coach Lawrence Trigg said. "I think our guys were fascinated with him.

"They kind of stood around and watched him. Our kids were like, 'Whoa, that's a good move,' instead of going to help out and taking a charge."

Merced closed out the first half with a 13-6 run to take a 36-29 lead at intermission.

Ronnie Dunham -- who transferred to Merced from Georgia last year -- provided a spark off the bench.

The diminutive junior guard ignited the Merced defense and chipped in offensively with 11 points.

"I was happy for him," Merced coach Marcus Knott said.

"It was his first game since his freshman year. He plays with a lot of energy."

Merced built its lead as high as 14 points four different times, including a 68-54 advantage with 2:05 remaining.

Armijo outscored Merced 11-2 from there to cut the final deficit to five points.

Jeff Garcia scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter for Armijo. Teammate Rosevelt Smith led the way with 24 points.

"We didn't shoot very well, we didn't handle the ball particularly very well and struggled on defense early," Knott said.

"We have a lot to work on. (But) we're still happy to get a win out of it."

Merced heads to Minden, Nevada, to play in a tournament this weekend.

It will open against Carson (NV) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com or via phone at 385-2462.

MERCED 70

ARMIJO 65

at Merced

Armijo 13 16 15 21 -- 65

Merced 15 21 17 17 -- 70

ARMIJO -- Jeff Garcia 18, Ryan Olson 2, Hitu Pal 8, Rosevelt Smith 24, steven Williams 6, David Martin 4. Totals: 24 8-15 65.

MERCED -- Bobby Salinas 8, Ronnie Dunham 11, Eddie Beavers 1, Johnny Chanthala 3, Allen Huddleston 32, Kenny Cooper 9, Maxwell Masood 2; Patrick Franey 5. Totals: 25 15-25 70.

3-pointers: Armijo 6 (Smith 3, Pal 2, Garcia 1); Merced 6 (Salinas 2, Dunham 2, Huddleston 1, Chanthala 1) Total Fouls: Armijo 16, Merced 16; Fouled out: Cooper (M).

Records: Armijo 0-2; Merced 1-0.

JV -- Merced won 72-61.

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