Merced blows past conference rival Fresno to earn spot in first-ever state final

Merced blows past conference rival Fresno to earn spot in first-ever state final

VENTURA, Calif. – Merced College got out of the gate fast and never looked back en route to a 65-49 victory over its Central Valley title compatriot Fresno City College in the semifinals of the 2018 California Community College Athletic Association Women's Basketball Championships Saturday afternoon at Ventura College. The Blue Devils (28-5) will meet the winner of the Sierra-Mt. San Jacinto semifinal in Sunday's 1 p.m. title game.

Merced led by as many as 22 points, 32-10, in the first half, settling for a 37-16 mid-game break, as Jordan Pierce tallied all nine of her game points before the break and Tajaheray McMahan contributed eight of her final game-high 18 points.

Merced extended the margin to as many as 27 points at 56-29 in the first minute of the fourth quarter before slowing the pace down the stretch.

McMahan, a 5-2 sophomore point guard out of Leuzinger High School (Lawndale), also had four rebounds, a steal, and an assist. Washington, also a 5-2 sophomore point guard (from Roosevelt, Fresno), was the game's top rebounder with 13 and had three assists and three steals. Jordan Pierce had nine points and Ayaka Nakashima added seven.

Julia Cuellar, a 5-4 sophomore guard from Bullard (Fresno) led the Rams with 12 points. Mikayal Mabie had nine points for Fresno, which finished 27-6.

Merced had lost its final conference game at Fresno, 71-60, which cost the Blue Devils the outright Central Valley Conference title and also dropped them in the Norther California seeding. The three CVC co-champs, Merced, Fresno, and College of the sequoias had claimed three of the four NorCal spots in the state quarterfinals (following the NorCal playoffs), behind top seed Sierra, the Big 8 Conference champion.

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Merced, the No. 4 NorCal seed entering the state tourney, had promptly knocked off Southern California top seeded Palomar, 61-59, in the state quarterfinals. The Blue Devils are the first NorCal No. 4 seed to reach the state final game.

(Fred Baer, College of San Mateo Athletics)