In the past, Merced’s Oleachea Bowers may have passed up a shot in a key moment of a game.
The Bears’ senior didn’t lack the confidence on Friday. Not in the playoffs.
Bowers scored the Bears’ first nine points of the fourth quarter to help No. 16 seed Merced hold off No. 17 Rodriguez’s late charge in a 67-57 win in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 outbracket game at Clemons Court.
“A lot of times I hesitate,” said Bowers, who scored 14 points. “I overthink it. Lately, I’ve just been shooting, shooting, shooting. Tonight most of them were falling.”
It felt that way for a lot of Merced players as the Bears (17-10) jumped out to a big lead in the first half against the Mustangs (16-11). The 67 points were the second most points Merced has scored this season.
The Bears’ reward is a date with top-seeded St. Mary’s (21-5), which is looking for its 15th section title.
The Bears had four players finish in double-figures in scoring, led by Dalonna Jones’ 16 points and 24 rebounds. Lexi Thomson added 13 points and Symone Gilliam scored 11.
It was Thompson who had the hot hand early, hitting two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds of the first quarter to give the Bears a 19-14 lead.
“We didn’t really know a lot about (Rodriguez),” Jones said. “We didn’t know what offense or defense they ran. We looked at their stats. We knew they didn’t rebound that well so we felt we could win there.”
Jones dominated the paint, especially late in the second quarter.
“I wanted every rebound, every rebound,” Jones said.
After the Mustangs cut the lead to 29-24 with a 3-pointer by Janessa Boling, Jones took over. The 6-foot center scored the final nine points of the first half to give Merced a comfortable 38-24 lead at intermission.
“Prior to those inside baskets at the end of the half we were taking a lot of jumpers,” said Merced coach Rob Pierce. “That’s why the fouls were so one-sided, because we were taking a lot of jumpers. We talked about feeding off that at half. They didn’t have an answer for Dalonna inside.”
The No. 18 Patriots (16-12) closed the gap in the fourth quarter to 62-59, but they could not muster any offense from anyone but Galloway – until a 3-point field goal in the waning seconds.
Fifteenth-seeded Bear Creek pulled away with a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter. The Bruins will face No. 2 Del Oro (Loomis) on Wednesday.