Notebook: ‘This was tough.’ El Capitan wins in Ervin’s return to Merced.

El Capitan’s Amaya Ervin (1) defends Merced’s Amari Stamps during the Gauchos’ 60-45 win over the Bears on Tuesday night at Merced High.
El Capitan’s Amaya Ervin (1) defends Merced’s Amari Stamps during the Gauchos’ 60-45 win over the Bears on Tuesday night at Merced High.

Amaya Ervin was fired up for Tuesday night’s return to Merced High.

You could see it when the El Capitan High senior stepped on her old court. This game was special.

The point guard helped guide the Bears to a 36-13 record, including a playoff appearance last year, in her two seasons playing varsity at Merced.

Ervin transferred to El Capitan in October and will finish her high school career playing for the Gauchos (12-7 overall, 3-0 Central California Conference).

El Capitan’s Amaya Ervin goes up for a shot against Merced on Tuesday night at Merced High. Ervin scored 20 points to help lead the Gauchos to a 60-45 win. Photo By James Mendoza

After a slow start that saw Ervin score just two points in the first half, the Gauchos star helped close the door on a 60-45 win by scoring 18 of her 20 points in the second half. Ervin added 11 rebounds and four steals.

“This was tough,” Ervin said. “I knew they would be fired up to stop me. It was hard not to be too emotional. I just had to tell myself to slow down a bit and play my game.”

The Bears (7-6 overall, 1-1 Central California Conference) came out focused on stopping Ervin with a box-and-one defense. Four Merced players played a zone, protecting the key and junior guard Janessa Jones drew the assignment of following Ervin around the court.

Jones, Amari Stamps, Sierra Smith and Kaitlynn Perez all took turns throughout the game guarding Ervin.

Merced junior Khya Martin goes up for a shot during Tuesday’s 60-45 loss to El Capitan. Martin finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Bears. Photo by James Mendoza

The game had a playoff intensity to it and it was close throughout before the Gauchos pulled away late in the third quarter.

Khya Martin helped keep the Bears in it with 20 points and 18 rebounds. Perez was all over the floor for Merced, recording five points, nine rebounds and five steals.

Merced’s lack of depth may have played a factor late. The Bears only suited up eight healthy players and lost Amya Rodgers to a knee injury in the third quarter. Merced also had to battle foul trouble with Stamps picking up three fouls in the first half.

“I don’t think it’s really tough with eight players,” Bears coach Art Solis said. “We missed 20 easy layups. That’s 40 points if you add that up. We make those and we win.”

Merced High’s Kaitlynn Perez tries to protect the ball from two El Capitan players during the Gauchos’ 60-45 win over the Bears on Tuesday night at Merced High. Photo by James Mendoza

Ervin scored 11 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, including the dagger midway through the fourth quarter when she stole the ball from Stamps at midcourt and then scored on a layup and drew the fifth foul on Stamps that gave the Gauchos a 54-39 lead with 3:04 left.

There wasn’t a whole lot of banter on the court between Ervin and her old teammates, but there were moments when she shared a laugh.

“There was a little interaction here and there,” Ervin said. “It’s always laughing and fun with them.”

The big week continues for El Capitan on Thursday when Atwater comes to the Stable Center for a key CCC matchup.

New weapon emerging for Gauchos

One of the big keys in El Capitan’s win over Merced was sophomore Harmonie Farr.

Farr knocked down five 3-pointers, which accounted for all 15 of her points. The Gauchos misfired on their first six shots against Merced from beyond the three-point line until Farr drained back-to-back shots.

“She has the green light for us,” said El Capitan coach Tyler Rogers-Trammel. “We have to beg her to shoot sometimes. She has nice form, nice touch, she just has to get her shots off.”

Farr seems to be coming out of her shell, scoring 10 or more points in four of El Capitan ‘s last six games.

Hilmar senior Justin Rentfro (32) rushes the ball during the Northern California 6-AA Championship game against East Nicolaus at Atwater High School in Atwater, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The Yellowjackets beat the Spartans 48-14. Andrew Kuhn

Hilmar’s Rentfro named All-American

Hilmar High senior Justin Rentfro was named to the Max-Preps Small Schools All-American second team at linebacker.

Rentfro helped lead the Yellowjackets to a 13-2 record and the CIF State Division VI AA state championship. The senior led Hilmar with 132 tackles.

El Capitan wrestling closing in on first conference title

The El Capitan High wrestling team is off to its best start in the program’s history. The Gauchos improved to 3-0 in the CCC after defeating Atwater 72-12 on Tuesday night. The Gauchos won eight of the matches by fall.

El Capitan is 7-0 on the season overall and has won two tournaments, including a win at the Dinuba Invitational this past weekend. The Gauchos had seven wrestlers place at the tournament, including Joseph Pia (108 pounds) and Evan Myrtue (162), who both won individual titles.

The Gauchos had never won a tournament as a team coming into this season and have already picked up wins at Dinuba and the Mike Tamana Championship at Modesto Junior College.