It should be pretty clear to the Merced girls basketball team that nothing is going to come easy this year.
The Bears are trying to navigate their way through the season with just seven players on their roster.
That number dropped to six on Saturday for the next week at least when leading scorer Tekerra Borden injured her knee against Modesto.
It wasnt pretty, but the Bears clawed their way to a 44-41 win over Atwater to win their Central California Conference opener on Tuesday night at Clemons Court.
Merced overcame 28 turnovers and a three-point halftime deficit with a strong second half to defeat the Falcons (4-13).
Not having Tekerra put us in a tough position, said freshman guard Lexi Thompson. We were down one player, which gave us just six. Tekerra is one of our stronger players. We were tired, but we had to step it up.
The Bears (12-5) turned up the pressure on defense in the second half and went to a zone, forcing Atwater to knock down shots from outside.
The result was a 13-2 run to start the third quarter that gave Merced a 30-22 lead with 2 minutes, 18 seconds, left in the third.
I felt we had it going there with that run, Bears coach Brad Reed said. We just couldnt persevere and keep it going.
Atwater stormed right back, taking advantage of four straight Merced turnovers. Mayra Mora scored a bucket and was fouled for a three-point play. Natalie Govea followed with another three-point play to bring the Falcons within 32-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bears struggled to get the ball to their center, Dalonna Jones, for the most part. The reigning CCC MVP finished with just 10 points to go along with 17 rebounds and seven blocks.
Merced did get scoring from just about everyone on the floor as Tandra Henley, Karina Dean, Mahogany Stitt and Thompson all scored eight points.
The fourth quarter was tight throughout with Atwater cutting the lead to 38-37 after a 3-pointer by Alexis Bautista with 5:21 left in the game.
Im tired of these close games, said Atwater coach J.R. Davis. We need to learn how to finish.
The Falcons never overtook the Bears in the final minutes. Trailing by one with 35 seconds left, Davis elected to play out the game instead of foul and Stitt scored with 8 seconds left to give Merced a 44-41 lead.
The Falcons came down the court with the hopes of setting up Bautista for a three-point attempt, but Mayra Mora went to the basket, missing a shot as time expired.
I didnt want to foul at the end because when we get in that foul mode, we just keep fouling, Davis said. We had a play set up at the end, but it started wrong. After that, everyone just froze.
Borden says she hopes to be back next week against Buhach Colony.
Buhach Colony 49, Pitman 47 (OT)
TURLOCK -- Jessica Silva drained a 3-pointer and hit a free throw for a four-point play to erase a two-point deficit in the final minute of overtime to lift the Thunder (1-0 CCC, 13-5) to a win.
The Buhach Colony senior also sank two free throws at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime on her way to 23 points. Allison Wisdom added 18 points.
Turlock 49, Golden Valley 45
TURLOCK -- The Cougars led all game, but couldn't hold on for a win.
The Bulldogs finished the game on a 7-2 run to pull out the victory.
"In the fourth quarter Turlock went to a zone and we just didn't hit the shots we needed to hit," Golden Valley coach Matt Thissen said.
Beatriz Munoz led GV (0-1 CCC, 3-13) with 11 points.