Merced advances to CCCAA semifinals with 89-75 win over East Los Angeles

(2N) Merced 89, (3S) East Los Angeles 75
CCCAA Women's Basketball Championship (semifinals)
Ventura College ? March 15
Photo by Mike Baker
(2N) Merced 89, (3S) East Los Angeles 75 CCCAA Women's Basketball Championship (semifinals) Ventura College ? March 15 Photo by Mike Baker

CCCAA Basketball Championship Tournament Central
(live video, live stats, recaps, photos)

VENTURA – Merced College opened up the CCCAA Women's Basketball Championships with a convincing, high -coring win over East Los Angeles College, 89-75.

The Blue Devils were led by an explosive performance by Suzana Shoji, who scored a season-high 34 points.  Double-double efforts by both Malaya Kendrick (27 pts, 14 reb) and Jada Johnson (16 pts, 17 reb) helped seal the deal for the #2 seed from the North.

Merced immediately set the tone with a Suzuna Shoji layup four seconds after the opening tip-off, and two more jumpers gave her team a 6-0 lead in under three minutes.  East LA initially had trouble finding their rhythm, missing their first five shots and conceding two turnovers before Jennifer Pool put them on the board with a layup.  Merced continued with their quick pace and racked up a 27-16 lead in the opening frame. 

The Huskies were unable to capitalize on several first half shooting fouls by Merced, making just one of their first eight free throws.  The Blue Devils kept up a fast and furious offense during the second quarter, preserving most of their lead and carrying a nine-point advantage into halftime.

After a slow start in the third, Jaelynn Curley notched seven points in a two-minute span, followed by a Jennifer Pool layup on ELAC's next possession that brought them within five points of Merced. The two teams traded baskets in the last two minutes of the period, and after the buzzer it was just a six-point lead for the Blue Devils. 

Then the Huskies cooled off again midway through the final frame, allowing Merced to go on a 10-2 run as they stretched their lead back out to 15 points.  Jaelynn Curley, who led the South Coast Conference in three-pointers, made only two of her eleven attempts from beyond the arc, ending up with 16 points and 9 rebounds.  Jennifer Pool added 19 points and four steals in her start, and Adriana Gonzalez came off the bench to score 17.  Even though East LA's bench outscored Merced's 32-3, it was Merced's fast breaks that earned them 21 points and never allowed the Huskies to take the lead.

Merced advances to Saturday's semifinals and will take on the winner of Friday's game between Moorpark (30-1) and College of the Sequoias (28-3).

(Brian Mellblom, CCCSIA)