SALIDA — Marcus Knott knows scoring points won’t be a problem.
The Merced coach has one of the top scorers in the Sac-Joaquin Section in Allen Huddleston.
However, stopping teams from scoring hasn’t been as easy.
Knott’s boys took a step in the right direction on Tuesday morning with a 74-52 win over Ripon on the final day of the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic.
Ripon jumped out to a 19-15 lead after one quarter, but managed just 19 total points in the second and fourth quarters.
“The defense we played after the first quarter was the difference in the game,” Knott said.
“That’s what we’re trying to get our guys to understand. Defense can lead to offense instead of the other way around.
“We don’t want to be a team that has to outscore everyone. That’s not a team that wins championships.”
Merced (6-5) had given up at least 77 points in each of its last four games.
Merced’s guards Huddleston, Bernard Bolden, Ronnie Duham and Otis Caery made it tough on Ripon’s backcourt.
The bulk of Ripon’s points came on second-chance opportunities.
Offensively, it was more than just the Huddleston show for Merced.
Patrick Franey scored 10 points and Kenny Cooper added eight points.
Otis Caery and Ronnie Dunham came up with some big shots when the game was still in doubt.
“I wanted to give some guys some good looks at the basket,” Huddleston said. “I want them to gain confidence as we go into conference.”
Huddleston did still found a way to pour in 32 points.
It was his fifth straight game with at least 30 points, which included a 50-point outburst against Modesto Christian in the tournament opener.
His 37.5 points per game average during the four-day tournament broke current Los Angeles’ Lakers guard Jordan Farmar’s tournament record of 33 points per game.
Huddleston also became the first all-tournament selection from a team that didn’t win at least the consolation title.
“He’s going to score a lot of points,” Knott said. “He’s our primary scorer and you’d be foolish to think otherwise.
“Today, he did a good job of taking what I feel are good shots. He took shots in rhythm.”