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At last, Merced close to home

Catching a Merced boys basketball game has been challenging for their fans.

Allen Huddleston and company have played six games in Nevada compared to just one game in California.

Even the diehard fans have a tough time justifying a road trip to Nevada to see their local heroes.

Merced won't play its first home game until Jan. 9 against Turlock.

Fans can finally see the boys in black and orange play tonight.

An hour drive to Salida seems more than worth it to watch Merced (5-4) open up the Modesto Christian Holiday Classic against Modesto Christian and UCLA-bound senior Reeves Nelson.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Nelson is expected to make his season debut after injuring his knee during the football season.

"It's exciting," said Merced coach Marcus Knott. "We've told the kids you don't get the opportunity to play against a player of his caliber very often.

"You have to appreciate what he does and you respect him, but then you go out and try to stop him."

The tournament has always featured some of the top teams in the state.

It's one of the reasons Merced has participated in the tournament year after year.

"The competition in this tournament is as good as you'll find anywhere in the state because teams come from everywhere," Knott said.

"The fact that it's the day after Christmas and just up the road makes it convenient for us, too."

In other action today: The Golden Valley and Los Banos girls basketball teams will compete in the Tracy Breakfast Lions Club/Tom Hawkins tournament.

Golden Valley will open against Foothill at Merrill West at

4:30 p.m.

Los Banos plays Patterson at Tracy High at 6 p.m.

The Golden Valley boys will play in the Columbia College tournament on Saturday.

The Los Banos boys will be in action at the Oakdale Tournament on Saturday.

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

Tournament schedules

BOYS

Modesto Christian Holiday Classic

Merced vs. Modesto Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Columbia College Tournament

Golden Valley vs. TBA, Saturday

Oakdale Tournament

Los Banos vs. TBA, Saturday

GIRLS

Tracy Breakfast Lions Club

Golden Valley vs. Merrill West, 4:30 p.m.

Los Banos vs. Patterson, 6 p.m.

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