With a defender closing fast, Ashley Willison stepped up and buried a crucial 3-pointer.
Tiara Dunson found space on the baseline, hitting a fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired.
Tanisha White crashed the backdoor, hauling in an offensive rebound and an easy putback.
With Wednesday's Central Valley Conference contest against Reedley very much in doubt, Merced College's sophomore class showed why there's no replacement for experience.
The seven-point run gave the Lady Devils a 71-65 lead with just over a minute to play.
Reedley's all-freshman roster wilted under the pressure.
MC held on for a difficult 76-70 victory. The win sets up a battle of unbeatens on Saturday when NorCal No. 4 Fresno City comes to Merced.
"I feel Reedley played extremely hard, but in the last couple minutes our sophomores stepped up and pulled it out for us," Merced College coach Allen Huddleston said. "It was nice to see some of the kids respond to the challenge, but ..."
The Lady Devils (4-0 CVC, 14-11) never should have been in such a tight ballgame.
Staked to a 36-27 lead at intermission, MC came out flying to open the second half.
Behind a couple of offensive putbacks by White (team-high 19 points), the Lady Devils pushed their lead to 13.
That's when the team eased up and Reedley made its run.
"We often get too comfortable out there and let teams back in," said Dunson who finished with nine points. "We haven't finished teams off well."
Behind the combination of Monique Reed (19 points) driving to the basket and some sharpshooting from the outside, Reedley stormed back and took a 65-64 lead with 4:35 to play.
Willison answered with one of her three 3-pointers and the Lady Devils never trailed again.
"When we play together our intensity goes way up," said Willison, who finished with
11 points. "We have some players with experience, and it showed down the stretch."
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central Valley Conference
MERCED COLLEGE 76, REEDLEY 70
At Merced College
REEDLEY -- Sarina Herevia 8, Lauren Rolff 16, Monique Reed 19, Blair Scott 4, Jodee McMillen 8, Samantha Greene 9, Antonia Walker 4, Stefani Ruiz 2. Totals 25 14-20 70.
MERCED COLLEGE -- Tanisha White 19, Ashley Willison 11, Keyona McKibbens 6, Tiara Dunson 9, Anna Yardy 5, Patricia O'neil 3, Tineka Spencer 9, Laura Robinson 14. Totals 26 17-23 76.
3-pointers: Reedley 6 (Rolff 2, McMillen 2, Greene 2), Merced 7 (Willison 3, White 2, O'Neil, McKibbens); Total Fouls: 17, Merced 18; Fouls Outs: None.
Records: Reedley 0-4 CVC, 8-17; Merced 4-0 CVC, 14-11.