Senior point guard Mercedes Lee has plenty of experience leading a team, having been on the Merced varsity since her freshman year. The four-year career has helped her become the school's all-time leader in steals (304) and assists (311).
"Mercedes is our floor leader and she has set the tempo in our games this year," coach John Bliss said. "She has shown great leadership and has always shown what a dedicated basketball player should be."
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She delivered again last week, leading the Bears to a Central California Conference co-title. She had a triple-double (11 points, 10 assists and 11 steals) in a 71-51 win over Golden Valley, and 13 points, nine assists and eight steals in a 62-51 win over Atwater.
"Mercedes can shoot the 3, attack the basket, make pinpoint passes and is a great on-the-ball defender," Bliss said. "She is a pure point guard."
It was just two years ago Trevor Machado-Ching was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. At the time, wrestling took a back seat to his health, and he regularly went to Stanford Medical Center for treatment. He's successfully battled the disease, and his senior year is providing plenty of memories.
"Trevor is the hardest-working wrestler that I have ever coached," coach Brian Stevens said. "His mental focus and hard work are the reasons that make him such a great wrestler. He is resilient because he never gives up."
He signed a letter of intent to wrestle at UC Davis and the state's No. 2-ranked wrestler won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV 140-pound title. He is 30-1 with 15 consecutive wins heading into today's Masters meet.
"He has put himself in the best position to accomplish his goals," Stevens said.
Jessi Cole, a senior forward, had to shoulder more of the scoring load for the Coyotes this year, and she responded. She averaged 15.7 points a game, including a combined 45 in two Southern League losses last week.
"Jessi worked extremely hard to improve her shooting and passing," Denair coach Mark Perry said. "And as the point guard, she had the responsibility of running our offense. She had a non-stop motor and works very hard."
That hard work translated to game averages of 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 5.6 steals for the Coyotes. And as the offensive focus, Cole had to deal with almost constant double-teams.
"Her quickness and timing allowed her to get to many balls and created more shot opportunities," Perry said. "She's a very unselfish player and wanted to do whatever was best for our team."
It would have been easy for Kyle Souza to be overlooked during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Meet since he wasn't in one of the marquee weight classes featuring a highly ranked state wrestler. Souza was one of the most popular kids in the gym, though, after surviving a tough final to capture the 140-pound crown in Ripon's gymnasium.
"Kyle has been working hard to improve himself on all positions on the mat." coach Glenn White said. "He has always been able to overpower other wrestlers, but he has been working on improving his technique, too."
Souza's role extends beyond the mat, White said, as he took on a greater leadership role. In the postseason, however, the emphasis is on individual performance.
"He's been to state before, so he knows what it takes," said White, whose senior is 36-6. "We expect him to qualify for the State Meet in Bakersfield."