STOCKTON -- There were no chants of Arco from the players. There was really no celebration at all.
If it weren't for the smiles as players exited the locker room, it would have been hard to tell Merced had just defeated Grace Davis 85-76 in the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I tournament at the University of the Pacific on Tuesday night.
"This was expected," said senior Brian Cooksey, who was one of five Merced players to finish in double figures. "Last year you could hear us yelling, 'Arco! Arco!' in the locker room. This time we just got dressed, and we want to get ready for tomorrow."
Merced (25-4) was just too fast and too good for Davis (24-5).
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Davis tried to run with Merced early and quickly found it couldn't keep up.
Merced played the first half at warp speed and players like Reggie Nelson, Tyrone Bowie, Otis Caery and Jaquari People looked like a white and orange blur running by Davis for easy baskets.
Nelson couldn't help but take a peek at the scoreboard.
"Most definitely," Nelson said. "It was so exciting. You look up there after a basket and we're up 10, then 20 and then 25 points. Everyone was just playing together."
It was People and Bowie who gave Merced a boost off the bench.
People, who has played the defensive role Bernard Bolden excelled at last year, became a scoring threat against Davis.
He hit two 3-pointers and scored 12 of his career-high 15 points in the first half. More importantly, he kept the pace at a break-neck speed.
"That's the way we have to play," People said. "We don't look like a team when we don't play fast. We have to play fast, play aggressive and be under control."
Bowie was just as effective, finding the smallest cracks in Davis' defense to work his way to the basket. He scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half.
"The snake," Merced coach Marcus Knott said. "He just slithers in there and gets to the basket. He's just so aggressive going to the basket, he surprises people."
Merced's speed was on display early as it jumped out to a 22-15 lead by the end of the first quarter.
It kicked it up another gear in the second quarter.
Merced raced up and down the court, eventually forcing Davis to call off its full-court press. By the time the halftime buzzer went off, Merced went into the locker room with a comfortable 54-29 lead.
"When I start hearing the other players getting mad and yelling at each other, 'Oh my gosh. They're up, what do we do now?' That's when it's time to extend the lead," said Nelson, who also scored 16 points.
With the big lead, Merced didn't keep the same intensity in the second half and let Davis cut the lead to under 10 points in the final minute.
However, the game -- and trip to Arco Arena -- was never in jeopardy.
Merced will face Sheldon at 4 p.m. in the semifinals on Thursday. Sheldon defeated Sacramento Burbank 74-69 on Tuesday.
It's Merced's second straight trip to Arco and it also clinched a berth in the NorCal playoffs next week.
"The NorCal playoffs is a good thing, but right now that's gravy," Knott said. "Right now, we're trying to win a section championship. We're going to have to play at that same level we played at in the second quarter to advance."
At The UOP
Davis 15 14 18 29 -- 76
Merced 22 32 13 18 -- 85
DAVIS -- Edwin Castellanos 7, Laron Thompson 4, Donte Walker 13, Lance Castaneda 5, Kory Johnson 28, Xuvion Vega 2, Adam Gong 2, Jordan McKoy 5, Chris Jones 5, Jalen Jimerson 5. Totals: 25 22-30 76.
MERCED -- Otis Caery 14, Reggie Nelson 16, Brian Cooksey 12, Manny Orozco 4, Marques Barron 8, Jaquari People 15, Tyrone Bowie 16. Totals: 32 14-26 85.
3-pointers: Davis 4 (Walker 2, McKoy 1, Castellanos 1), Merced 7 (Caery 4, People 2, Nelson 1); Rebounds: Davis 34 (Johnson 8), Merced 34 (Bowie 9); Assists: Davis 9 (Thompson 2, Castaneda 2), Merced 20 (Barron 9); Team Fouls: Davis 23, Merced 20; Fouled Out -- Thompson (D), Jimerson (D).
Records: Davis 24-5; Merced 25-4.