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Merced boys show off finishing kick

TURLOCK -- Merced's pressure is relentless.

Just ask the Turlock boys basketball team.

Doug Cornfoot's boys handled it fine for three quarters as they built a 10-point lead.

However, Turlock wilted away in the fourth quarter.

Merced turned up the pressure to ignite an 18-2 run to start the fourth quarter and rallied for a 66-62 win in a key Central California Conference game on Wednesday night at Bulldog Arena.

"It's like we told the kids, keep plugging away," said Merced coach Marcus Knott, whose team improved to 7-1 in the CCC and 15-8 overall.

"I think Turlock wore down from our pressure. Some of those shots they were hitting early were coming up short."

Players like Ronnie Dunham, Bernard Bolden and Reggie Nelson sparked the sudden turnaround.

Turlock (5-3, 14-9) struggled advancing the ball past halfcourt against Merced's full-court press.

"We call those guys our front-line guys," Knott said. "You have to get by them to get to the basket.

Turlock built its lead by controlling the tempo.

Cornfoot switched his zone defenses -- even using a box-and-one at times to contain Merced star Allen Huddleston.

The duo of Anthony Hubbard (16 points) and Travis Souza (15 points) helped Turlock build a 52-42 lead after three quarters.

Then Merced came alive.

Huddleston nailed a 3-pointer to start the comeback.

A pair of free throws from Nelson and a basket by Marques Barron -- who also pulled down 10 rebounds -- quickly cut Turlock's lead to 52-49 in just 80 seconds.

Dunham, Bolden and Nelson looked like piranhas going for the kill.

Dunham followed a Huddleston dunk with a steal and a layup that gave Merced a 55-54 lead with 4:14 remaining.

When Merced built the lead to 60-54 the large Turlock crowd was completely silent.

"We let their aggressiveness dictate the game," said Cornfoot, whose team has lost three close games to Merced this season.

"We weren't strong with the ball. We were careless and we kept waiting for a bailout call that wasn't going to come."

Turlock cut the lead to 60-58 before Huddleston drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the night to ice the game.

Patrick Franey added 12 points for Merced.

"Ronnie and Bernard did a great job," said Huddleston, who scored

20 of his 32 points in the second half.

"Bernard did a good job on Souza. You could tell he was tired. Ronnie tipped a lot of balls on defense.

"Everyone contributed in the win."

At Turlock

Merced 9 16 17 24 -- 66

Turlock 12 22 18 10 -- 62

MERCED -- Otis Caery 3, Ronnie Dunham 2, Bernard Bolden 5, Reggie Nelson 6, Eddie Beavers 2, Allen Huddleston 32, Marques Barron 4, Patrick Franey 12. Totals: 25 8-12 66.

TURLOCK -- Anthony Hubbard 16, Shane Kumar 8, Travis Souza 15, Robert Mendes 8, Eric Wetzel 9, Ryan Brown 2, Mason Russell 4. Totals: 26 7-11 62.

3-pointers: Merced 8 (Huddleston 5, Caery 1, Bolden 1, Franey 1), Turlock 3 (Kumar 2, Souza 1); Team Fouls: Merced 14, Turlock 15; Fouled Out -- Mendes (T).

Records: Merced 7-1 CCC, 15-8 overall; Turlock 5-3, 14-9.