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Women's Basketball: Merced too much for Bear Cubs

#30 Maddie Strom shooting the ball

SRJC 59, Merced College 94

             Three days after squeaking out a one-point first round playoff win at home, the #15 Bear Cubs (12-14) traveled to Merced College to take on the #2 seeded Blue Devils (26-3). The hosts, taking advantage of the visitors' turnovers and missed shots, jumped out to a 15-0 start before Maddie Strom's putback got the Bear Cubs on the scoreboard at the 5:12 mark. Maddie Strom made her next two low post shots, prompting a Merced timeout with 3:39 left. The Blue Devils tacked on a 3-pointer and one free throw in the next minute for a 19-6 lead. A field goal by Britta Irvine and Shayla Newman's putback completed the scoring with the Bear Cubs in a 10-19 hole.

            The Blue Devils scored seven unanswered points in the first 70 seconds of the second quarter. Cammie Barsuglia swished a 3-pointer with 8:15 on the clock. The Blue Devils responded with a 13-0 run. Jasmine Henderson scored five points in a row when she banked in a baseline 3-pointer then made a steal and drove the length of the court to put in the layup. Shayla Newman accounted for the Bear Cubs' next four points on a pair of free throws and a post move with 1:57 left to put their deficit at 22-46. Maddie Strom finished the scoring in the quarter with back-to-back baskets on low post moves to make the halftime score 26-46.

            The Blue Devils started the third quarter with a 3-pointer and a field goal in the opening minute. With 8:44 on the clock, DJ Hayes cut to the hoop, caught the pass from Britta Irvine, and banked in the layup. After Ayaka Nakashima swished her fifth 3-pointer of the game, Shayla Newman was on the receiving end of Irvine's assist pass next to the basket. The next time down DJ Hayes tossed in a one-handed driving 5-footer, making the score 32-54 with 7:35 on the clock. During the subsequent four-and-a-half minutes the Bear Cubs made 6 out of 10 free throws while the Blue Devils put in two field goals, two 3-pointers, and a free throw to widen their lead to 67-38. In the final three minutes of the quarter Maddie Strom scored on a fast break layup, Irvine spun around with the dribble and sank the 8-footer, and Lilly Orozco made one free throw, while the Blue Devils added two free throws, a 3-pointer and a field goal just before the buzzer for a 74-48 advantage.

            The Blue Devils tallied the first two points of the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws 54 seconds in. Jasmine Henderson scored on a drive 16 seconds later. Malaya Kendrick made one of two free throws, and then so did Shayla Newman. Kendrick sank a fast break layup, and 11 seconds later Jasmine Henderson drew a foul and made both free throws. The Blue Devils put in two field goals before Cammie Barsuglia's 3-pointer with 5:41 on the clock. After a Blue Devils' field goal, Britta Irvine drained a 3-pointer with 4:53 left. A Blue Devils' field goal and one free throw with 3:22 to go were answered by Henderson's 3-pointer 21 seconds later. In the next two minutes the Blue Devils added a field goal and one free throw. Shayla Newman's two free throws with 57 seconds remaining were the Bear Cubs' final points. Nakashima dropped in her seventh 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to complete the scoring in their 94-59 win.

            The Bear Cubs' leading scorer and All Conference player, Maiya Flores, was sidelined with a serious knee injury suffered in the first quarter of Wednesday's game. Tonight the Bear Cubs just didn't have enough firepower to come close to matching the well-balanced attack of the Blue Devils with their outside shooting, driving and dishing, and outstanding post play of 6'0" Jada Johnson. The Bear Cubs made 47% (20 out of 44) of their shots, but their 26 turnovers limited their chances to score. The Blue Devils only committed 11 turnovers and put up 83 shots, of which they sank 36 (43.4%), thanks in part to 22 offensive rebounds. Five Blue Devils scored in double figures: Ayaka Nakashima 21, Jada Johnson 19, Hailey Chavez 17, Malaya Kendrick 13, and Suzuna Shoji 10.

            Jasmine Henderson led the Bear Cubs with 15 points on 4 for 6 from the field and 5 for 6 from the free throw line. Maddie Strom made 6 out of 10 shots for 12 points, and Shayla Newman made 3 field goals and 6 out of 8 from the line for 12 points. Cammie Barsuglia sank two 3-pointers and 2 out of 4 free throws for 8 points. Britta Irvine added 2 field goals and a 3-pointer for 7 points, DJ Hayes 2 field goals for 4 points, and Lilly Orozco one free throw. Shayla Newman and Maddie Strom both grabbed 6 rebounds each. Britta Irvine passed for 4 assists and Cammie Barsuglia 3.