Marcus Knott remembers walking onto the Arco Arena floor with his players last year.
The Merced coach saw the wide eyes as his players looked around the empty arena before a semifinal matchup against Folsom.
"It was expected," Knott said. "I remember shooting around before the game. The nets are mic'd at Arco, so when the first shot went through the net it echoed through the stadium.
"I remember it being a funny thing because everyone was listening for the next made shot. It was little things like that.
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"I think this year it will be a little different. Our guys won't be in awe of the spectacle that is playing at Arco Arena."
The experience of playing at Arco last year should help No. 2 seed Merced (25-4) focus all of its attention on No. 6 Sheldon (24-5).
The two teams meet in today's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal at Arco Arena at 4 p.m.
In the other semifinal, top-seeded Elk Grove Franklin (25-4) plays No. 4 Turlock (24-5) at 5:30 p.m.
Merced knows what it's up against in Sheldon.
"They're ultra-talented," Knott said. "They're very tall, they're long, they can run and they've got some shooters.
"They're the kind of team you expect to see at this time of the season."
Still, Merced's game plan won't change.
Merced wants to make the contest a full-court game played at a quick pace.
"Sheldon is a big team, a very big team," Merced senior Reggie Nelson said. "A couple of our guards are going to have to play bigger players.
"We have to keep them off the boards. We can't let them use their athleticism."
Sheldon is led by 6-foot, 6-inch junior Darius Nelson and 6-8 Ramon Eaton.
Nelson is averaging more than 23 points and seven rebounds per game. Eaton is scoring just under 15 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
"We know the team we're facing," Brian Cooksey said. "We know Sheldon is going to be ready. I already talked to Darius. We know they're going to try to slow us down.
"We have to keep the pace fast. That's what we do."
Merced will counter with its balanced attack. Five players scored in double figures in Tuesday's 85-76 win over Grace Davis, with Nelson and Tyrone Bowie leading the way with 16 points apiece.
"We have to take care of the basketball and we have to rebound," Knott said. "If we can do those two things we have a good chance of winning.
"Our guys aren't afraid. They believe it will be a challenge. That's a healthy respect for Sheldon.
"By no means do we fear them."