Allen Huddleston couldn't have hoped for better.
When a shot at the Central Valley Conference title disappeared in the final week of the regular season, Huddleston knew his Merced College women's basketball team could pencil itself in as the No. 12 seed in the NorCal Regional Playoffs.
While traveling to Rocklin to face co-Big 8 Conference champion Sierra will be no easy task, it's a challenge Huddleston's team has already proven it can handle.
On Dec. 7, the Lady Devils defeated Sierra 58-43 in the championship game of the Shasta College Invitational.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"It's a good matchup for us," Huddleston said. "We got exceptional play from Tineka (Spencer) and Laura (Robinson) inside last time and it was the real key for us."
Sierra will host MC tonight at 7 p.m.
While the Lady Devils may hold the psychological edge over Sierra, Huddleston has spent the last week trying to build his team's confidence back up.
MC headed into the final week of CVC play just one game back of Fresno City.
All the Lady Devils had to do was pick up a road win over Reedley to set up a showdown with Fresno City on the final day of the regular season.
Things didn't go according to plan. Reedley caught fire in the second half and shocked the Lady Devils, 59-51.
MC was then trounced by Fresno City, 66-39.
"I do wish we were playing a little better heading into the playoffs," Huddleston said. "We were playing some of our best basketball of the season the first time we played Sierra and hopefully we can recapture that."
Sierra is led by Brandi Stephens (11.2 points per game), Kayla Hines (9.8) and Chelsey Ruscillo (9.3).
Spencer (9.7 points per game) has come into her own down the stretch for MC. Tanisha White (7.6) almost always provides a complimentary inside-outside game. But the key will be the performance of sophomore guard Tiara Dunson (9.9).
Dunson has struggled in some big contests this season, but when MC's leading scorer hits shots...
No. 12 Merced College
at No. 5 Sierra
INFO: Tonight at 7p.m.
RECORDS: MC 17-14; Sierra 22-10
LAST TIME: Merced defeated Sierra 58-43 to win the Shasta College Invitational title on Dec. 7.
OUTLOOK: Consistency has plagued the Lady Devils all season. MC has already shown the talent to beat Sierra, but has to come ready to play.