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Atwater folds under Merced's heat

As great a scorer as Allen Huddleston is, it's just a small portion of why the University of the Pacific coveted him so.

The Merced senior is a complete player.

Atwater got a first-hand glimpse of that on Wednesday evening.

With Huddleston leading the way, the two-time defending Central California Conference champs used a combination of turnovers and offensive rebounds to overcome a poor shooting night.

Huddleston finished with a game-high 25 points and a team-high 11 rebounds and seven steals as Merced improved to 3-0 in the CCC with a 83-50 rout of Atwater.

"When you can't knock down open jump shots, you have to find other ways to score," Huddleston said. "We had good pressure and attacked the offensive glass, and it led to some easy buckets for us."

Atwater managed to weather Merced's pressure in the first quarter and even opened the second quarter with a mini run, cutting the lead to 26-18.

That's win everything seemed to unravel for John Kane's squad.

Merced (10-7) forced 16 second-quarter turnovers and closed the first half on a 26-6 run.

"We haven't been shooting the ball well the last couple of games," Merced coach Marcus Knott said. "We've talked a lot about getting our defense to stimulate our offense.

"The guys did a good job of doing just that tonight."

Merced's tenacity helped force 29 turnovers in the game. And its work inside was rewarded as well, with a 49-39 rebounding advantage.

"Our press is made so much easier because of guys like Bernard (Bolden) and Ronnie (Dunham), who get a hand on just about every pass," said Huddleston, who scored 14 points in the second quarter. "The rest of us have learned to anticipate that and it's led to a lot of turnovers."

Reggie Nelson added 13 points and Bobby Salinas had eight as 11 Merced players scored in the game.

Bryant La Count led Atwater (0-3 CCC, 5-12) with 15 points and Jose Rivas chipped in eight, but Kane's squad never recovered from the second quarter.

"We have a losing record, but we haven't had as bad a performance as this in our other 11 losses," Kane said. "One mistake led to another. And then instead of calming down, things just kept snowballing.

"How do you not get up for Merced? As a coach, it's just disappointing."

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

At Merced

Atwater 11 13 8 18 -- 50

Merced 21 30 19 13 -- 83

ATWATER -- Eriq Belt 3, Andrew Rogers 6, Jose Rivas 9, Giavonni Dalmaso 2, Colton Beatty 7, Bryant La Count 15, Tou Lee 2, Albert Martinez 7. Totals 20 7-14 50.

MERCED -- Otis Carey 3, Ronnie Dunham 3, Bernard Bolden 7, Yingkong Moua 3, Bobby Salinas 8, Reggie Nelson 13, Eddie Beavers 4, Allen Huddleston 25, Marques Barron 6, Tynan Pedretti 4, Patirck Franey 7. Totals 33 8-10 83.

3-pointers: Atwater 3 (Belt, Rivas 2), Merced 9 (Carey, Dunham, Bolden, Moua, Salinas 2, Nelson, Huddleston 2); Total Fouls: Atwater 8, Merced ; Fouls Outs: None.

Records: Atwater 0-2 CCC, 5-11; Merced 3-0; 10-7.

JV -- Merced 56-42.

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