Merced nips rival Turlock

SALIDA -- Dennis Magro was tongue-tied, stumbling over his words as he jogged his memory for an answer.

The Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic director couldn't remember the last time he's seen a player score as many points as Merced High guard Allen Huddleston, who dropped in 36 more on Monday to beat Central California Conference rival Turlock, 82-80.

"Maybe Farmar," Magro eventually said, referring to Lakers guard Jordan Farmar, who owns the tournament's single-game scoring record of 55. "But Huddleston has to be right up there."

On Monday, the Merced senior continued to fill up the stat sheet, eclipsing the 30-point plateau for the third game in a row.

Huddleston's game-high 36 points gave him 118 through three Classic games.

Huddleston, bound for the University of the Pacific, was at his best down the stretch in the morning matchup. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and seven in the final two minutes as Merced avoided an embarrassing second-half collapse.

"That was pathetic," Merced coach Marcus Knott said of his team's struggles to close the game.

Turlock slowly made a game of it after trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half. Eric Wetzel finished with 20 points to lead five Turlock players in double figures.

Shane Kumar scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, Anthony Hubbard had 15 and Travis Souza 15.

Robert Mendes finished with 10 points.

Souza's free throws with 36.8 seconds left gave Turlock an 80-79 lead.

After free throws by Huddleston and Patrick Franey put Merced back into the lead, 82-80, Turlock had four cracks at a victory or overtime.

Souza missed a 3-pointer from the wing with four seconds left. And after two wild tips, Wetzel's shot at the buzzer bounced hard off the iron.

"It was a fitting way to end the game," said Knott, whose team was badly out-rebounded. "I was just watching and waiting for one to go in.

"(Rebounding) was our No. 1 problem. Luckily, we dodged a bullet."

Early on, it looked like Merced might cruise. The Bears' press fueled a 17-2 run over the final two-and-a-half minutes of the first quarter. Merced led 27-15 after one period and 43-32 at the half.

"We got comfortable," Knott said. "Our defense was disappointing"