Merced High trailed Christian Brothers 27-17 after the first half of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III girls basketball final on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at Golden 1 Center in Sacrmaneto.

Merced girls fall short in bid for first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section banner

Joe Cortez

SACRAMENTO — Overwhelmed by the cavernous dimensions of the Golden 1 Center, Merced High’s girls basketball team connected on just one of 18 three-point attempts, falling 50-33 to Christian Brothers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final.

It was the fifth-seeded Bears (27-4) first trip to the finale since 1992, when they made their second of back-to-back appearances under then-head coach Brad Reed.

“We’re so used to playing in smaller gyms, and behind the backboard you also have that wall,” said Merced coach Arturo Solis, whose team will learn Sunday who it plays in the Northern California regional tournament. “Here, obviously, you doin’t have that. So, the environment itself can confuse them and I think, sometimes, let’s be real, they want take that shot from the (NBA) three-point line.”
A late first-half surge helped Christian Brothers’ girls basketball team pull away from Merced 27-17 late in the first half. The Falcons held the Bears to just two points in the third quarter, taking a 38-19 lead in the final eight minutes of action.

Merced upset No. 1 Placer 54-50 in the semifinals on Tuesday, while No. 2 Christian Brothers handled No. 3 Vanden 51-42 in the other semi.

“We appreciate Merced,” said Christian Brothers coach Shandyn Foster. “They made school history making it this far for the first time in a long time. I give them credit for doing that. They have terrific athletes and it was a big win for us.”

Kaitlynn Perez led the Bears with 12 points, while teammate Sierra Smith added 10. Smith also was awarded the Sportsmanship Medal.