Sports

Shawn Jansen: Crosstown rivals live up to the hype

Shawn Jansen
Shawn Jansen

As a prep reporter, I cover over a 100 games and matches each year.

I know what you're saying: "Tough gig."

The problem is the notebooks I use to chart each game quickly pile up on my desk.

My desk isn't hard to find in the newsroom.

Just look for the one with the mountain of papers near the keyboard. Mom wouldn't be proud.

However, my notebook from Wednesday night's Golden Valley-Merced boys basketball game won't get lost in that pile.

That notebook will be pulled aside. I'm sure I'll need to pull it out a few more times throughout the season.

I still found myself replaying key moments of the game in my mind on Thursday.

That alone tells me we watched something special Wednesday night.

I'm not alone.

"I told our players it was an instant classic," Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter said.

"It's always fun to go to school the day after a big win. There were people popping their head in my classroom throughout the day to say, 'Nice job, coach.'"

So many times games don't live up to the hype.

The Merced-Golden Valley rivalry has been no exception.

It's not a lot of fun covering or watching blowouts.

But an instant classic definitely describes GV's 87-84 overtime win over Merced.

I can't remember the last time I covered a game in which three players from the same team scored 20 or more points like Golden Valley's Alex Fletcher (26), John Sykes (25) and Donte Scott (20).

As if the 48-point performance by Merced's Allen Huddleston wasn't enough.

How exciting was the game?

Golden Valley's Justin Wootten took an elbow to the mouth during the first quarter.

The junior went to the hospital, received six stitches and was back on the bench to watch the end of the game.

Unfortunately, only about

600 people got to see the game.

With the Merced College gym unavailable, the game was played at Merced High.

The game was sold out by Tuesday afternoon.

Scalpers might have been able to make a quick profit on Olive Avenue Wednesday night.

The fans that squeezed into the gym saw a heck of a finish.

Huddleston took over the game down the stretch, keying an 11-2 Merced run that erased an eight-point deficit in just 77 seconds late in the fourth quarter.

Twice Huddleston hit clutch shots in the final minute that gave Merced the lead.

The first was a 25-foot shot with a minute left.

The University of the Pacific-bound senior then hit a leaner in the lane with 9 seconds left in regulation that might have been the game-winner if it wasn't for Fletcher.

"For Huddleston to keep scoring the points the way he is with the way teams are guarding him is amazing," Hunter said.

GV obviously had its share of moments, including Fletcher's game-tying layup at the buzzer.

Fletcher hauled in a perfect pass from Scott Livesay and drove through a wide-open lane.

"I'm still not sure what happened at the end of regulation," Merced coach Marcus Knott said after the game.

"I'm not sure if it was miscommunication, but that should have never happened."

Sykes' performance after returning from a sprained left ankle early in the third quarter might have been the most impressive.

Sykes didn't feel he could handle the ball up on top with the injury.

So Hunter sent his star to the post and he dominated, scoring 15 of his 25 points after the injury.

"I thought he was done," Hunter said. "As a coach you have to move on. Immediately after he went down, I'm thinking about what we have to do without him.

"Even when he went back in I thought he was done. I pulled him out to let him know it was just a game. I didn't want him to hurt himself.

"I wanted to make sure it was his decision. He's a good athlete and he should be in tune with his body and should know how it feels."

The X-rays on Sykes' ankle on Thursday afternoon came back negative.

Still, Hunter doesn't know if his point guard will be able to play tonight against Pitman.

"Sometimes the second or third day after you sprain your ankle is the worst," Hunter said.

It was definitely a gutsy effort in a memorable game.

I can't wait for the next one in a few weeks at Cougar Arena.

Circle the date: February 13.

You can bet both teams will still be in title contention.

If we're lucky, we're in for another fantastic show.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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