TURLOCK -- A five-point halftime lead did little to please Salinda Mendoza-Mabie.
The Turlock High girls basketball coach made it clear to her players she expected more in the second half.
Her girls responded.
Turlock opened the third quarter with a 17-0 run to take control of the game and possibly the Central California Conference with an emphatic 52-30 victory over defending CCC champion Merced on Thursday night at Turlock High.
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"If you look at our team, statistically we're really strong in the third quarter," Mendoza-Mabie said. "A lot of people ask if I chew their butts out at halftime. I don't, but I lay it on the line every time. I challenged my girls earlier in the day.
"We talked about wanting to win and wanting to do the right thing. At halftime, I asked them if that was their idea of showing me. I was not really happy."
Turlock (21-4, 9-1) held Merced scoreless for the first 6 minutes, 10 seconds of the third quarter.
Five different Turlock players scored during the run that extended the Bulldogs' lead to 43-21 with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
Samantha Bertomen led Turlock with 14 points.
"We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of that third quarter," said Merced coach John Bliss, whose team dropped to 8-2 in league and 16-8 overall.
"We didn't execute."
Merced made just 2 of 22 3-point attempts against Turlock.
After winning 19 consecutive conference games dating back to last year, the Bears have now lost two of their last three.
Merced's season has played out like a soap opera.
It started with the knee injury to star Deja Mann and more recently the dismissal of senior Alyssa Wright after last week's loss to Pitman for what Bliss described as "conduct detrimental to the team."
Merced had four of its top players either on the bench in street clothes or in the stands for various reasons.
"We're not going to make excuses," Bliss said. "I still believe if we would have executed better on offense, we still could have won this game.
"I've been coaching long enough to know it's going to affect team chemistry when you make changes midseason. You make decisions you have to live with."
With her first win over Merced in five years coaching at Turlock, Mendoza-Mabie and her team are one win away from clinching at least a share of its first CCC title since 1982.
"Our girls are very aware," Mendoza-Mabie said. "One of our younger player's mother was on that team."