Bear Cub take championship of the Merced Tournament

Team Flex

SRJC 71, San Joaquin Delta College 65

            In the Championship game of the Merced College Shootout the Bear Cubs (3-0) took on a Big 8 foe—the Mustangs (2-2) of San Joaquin Delta College. Ashleigh Barr scored the first point of the contest on one of two free throws. The Mustangs sank a field goal, and then Barr registered a 3-point play on a shot next to the basket. After missing their next shot attempt, the Bear Cubs made four in a row—Meredith Gilbertson's 2-footer, Reese Searcy's drive, Lucca Lowenberg's 3-pointer, and Barr's 3-footer—for a 13-9 lead at the 6:24 mark. Even though the Bear Cubs made only three out of their final 10 shot attempts in the quarter—one 3-pointer each by Ciarah Michalik and Alex Ditizio and Sheriene Arikat's 2-footer off an assist from Lanie Lincoln—the Bear Cubs were able to outscore the Mustangs 21-15 during the first 10 minutes of play.

            Nine seconds into the second quarter Meredith Gilbertson passed to a cutting Ashleigh Barr next to the hoop, who made the basket and the and-one free throw after getting fouled. Both teams missed all of their shot attempts until Sheriene Arikat sank a 15-footer at the 5:48 mark to start a 10-0 Bear Cub run that also included a 10-footer by Alex Ditizio, Lanie Lincoln's 3-pointer, and Lucca Lowenberg's 3-pointer to open up a 34-18 lead. Mary Cotton's 3-point play with 3:28 on the clock represented the Mustangs' first basket of the quarter after three out of six free throws earlier. The Mustangs added one more free throw before Lanie Lincoln swished another 3-pointer with 1:50 left. Cotton made one more basket and Anaya Mejia two free throws to reduce their deficit to 26-37 going into halftime.

            The Bear Cubs scored first in the third period after just 26 seconds on Ashleigh Barr's putback. Mary Cotton scored a field goal 21 seconds later. Lucca Lowenberg put in a 3-footer. After the Mustangs made two free throws, Sheriene Arikat hustled in after a missed shot and banked in the putback. In the next two-and-a-half minutes, Anaya Mejia made two field goals and a 3-pointer, while Ciarah Michalik scored on a drive and Rose Nevin hit a 2-footer after cutting into the key and receiving Michalik's assist, making the Bear Cubs' lead 47-37 at the 6:04 mark. During the next 6:04 the Mustangs added eight more points to get to 45. For their turns on offense Lucca Lowenberg, Alex Ditizio, and Taylor Iacopi each sank a 3-pointer, and Ashleigh Barr banked in a 2-footer on an assist from Ditizio to put their lead at 58-45 by the end of the quarter.

            In the fourth quarter after Meredith Gilbertson made one of two free throws and then later put back an offensive rebound with 6:48 on the clock, the Bear Cubs' were ahead 61-49. Anaya Mejia made a field goal and then so did Mary Cotton. Following Ciarah Michalik's scoring drive, the Mustangs added six unanswered points on Cotton's 3-pointer and Jene Wells' 3-point play to close the gap to 59-63 at the 3:57 mark. The Bear Cubs scored the next six points on consecutive 3-point plays by Lowenberg and Michalik for a 69-59 lead with 3:06 on the clock. The Mustangs went on another 6-0 run, which included one free throw, Cotton's 3-pointer, and a steal and layup by Wells with 58 seconds left to reduce their deficit to 65-69. The Bear Cubs had trouble with the Mustangs' full court pressure and turned the ball over. Fortunately, the Bear Cubs' defense prevented the Mustangs from scoring any more points. The Bear Cubs added two more points on one free throw each by Ciarah Michalik and Reese Searcy, making the final score 71-65. The last time the Bear Cubs won the championship of the Merced College Tournament was in 2012.

            The Bear Cubs shot well in the first quarter (8 out of 18 for 44%) and the third quarter (9 out of 17 for 53%) to help them outscore their opponents and build up enough of a lead to withstand the fourth quarter push by the Mustangs. Mary Cotton, who did not play during the Mustangs' first two losses of the season, led all scorers with 29 points and was selected to the All Tournament team. Anaya Mejia also was named All Tourney and scored 18 points.

            Lucca Lowenberg, the Bear Cubs' All Tourney selection, led the team in scoring with 14 points. Tournament MVP Ashleigh Barr finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Point Guard Ciarah Michalik, who played extremely well and deserved to also be selected All Tourney, positioned herself defensively to draw two key offensive fouls from the players she guarded and scored 11 points. Alex Ditizio added 8 points, Sheriene Arikat and Lanie Lincoln 6 each, Meredith Gilbertson 5, Reese Searcy and Taylor Iacopi 3 each, and Rose Nevin 2. Alex Ditizio. Lanie Lincoln, and Ciarah Michalik each passed for 3 assists