Marcus Barron spent the bulk of his weekend at the movie theater.
Alice In Wonderland.
Barron saw just about anything he could to help get his mind off of basketball. The pain of Thursday's Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal loss to Sheldon still felt like a five-ton elephant sitting on his chest.
"I'm still not over it," the Merced senior said. "A section title was an achievement we wanted to get for a long time.
"It was about 7ish and I was at the movies with Reggie (Nelson) and I texted Jaquari (People) that we should be in the locker room (at Arco Arena) getting ready right now."
Marcus Knott said it was hard not to notice his team dragging a bit during Friday's practice.
The mood seemed to change on Monday as Merced (25-5) prepared for tonight's NorCal Division I playoff opener against San Ramon Valley (26-3).
The game will be played at Monte Vista High in Danville at 7 p.m.
"It took about halfway through practice on Friday before they really started getting after each other," Knott said.
"Their spirits definitely seem to be a little higher (on Monday) than they were on Friday."
Merced enters the playoffs with a chip on its shoulder after receiving the lowest seed in the playoffs as a No. 12 seed.
Even Turlock was seeded higher at No. 11, despite Merced defeating Turlock twice and winning the Central California Conference championship.
"Ever since we were little, our group has gone up against bigger and better players and we were able to do things people didn't expect us to do," Barron said.
"That's what I told our guys. Remember when we were little and people doubted us.
"We feel we have a chance to not only pull the first upset, but the biggest upset of the tournament.
"No matter what size or how good the other team is, we feel we can run with anybody."
San Ramon Valley lost to NorCal top seed De La Salle in the semifinals of the North Coast Section playoffs.
Two of SRV's three losses came to De La Salle this year.
Like many of Merced's games this year, it will be crucial for Barron and company to dictate the tempo of the game.
"They're a very well-coached team with some pretty good length at some positions," Knott said. "It's not the same length as Sheldon.
"They're a little more methodical with the basketball than what we've seen the last couple weeks.
"It's going to be a contrast of styles. We feel the key for us in every game is to try to get the other team to do what you want them to do.
"San Ramon is not a team that is going to come out and wow you. They'll just plug away and plug away and eventually their up by 15 points."
Slowly the smiles were returning during Monday's practice as the Merced players competed against each other.
Their season still goes on for at least one more game.
"We still get to play together," Barron said. "We want to make sure our next game isn't our last game.
"We're not going to let anybody tell us what we can't do."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at email@example.com.