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Bulldogs bite Warriors in county clash
If there was any question as to whether the basketball rivalry between Los Molinos and Mercy high schools is still heated, Friday's hoops war in Red Bluff certainly put that notion to rest.
In a physical battle where both sides probably wished they had worn football pads, and a Los Molinos fan got ejected for voicing his displeasure with the officiating, it was the Bulldogs emerging with a 61-44 victory over the Warriors.
Los Molinos point guard A.J. Long, who finished with 17 points, summed up the rivalry when he grinned, "This is the team I just wanted to beat."
Long made the first of his two 3-pointers in Los Molinos' 19-point first quarter, with Jordan Gumm scoring his game total of five points. Mercy made just four shots from the field, but two came from long range from Tommy Garcia and Adil Syed, who both finished with eight points.
The score stood at 19-11 in favor of the Bulldogs after one.
"We expected them to come out in a zone; I'm glad we worked on our 'man' plays in practice," Long said.
Long canned another trey in the second quarter, and drew hoots and hollers from the LM supporters when he hustled back on a fast break and timed his jump perfectly to sway away a lay-up attempt by Syed.
Harlow Johnson and Syed hit from behind the arc to keep Mercy close, as the Bulldogs went into the locker room up 32-23 at halftime.
"The Warriors finally found the intensity level at which we became competitive," said Mercy coach Steve Shellabarger. "Playing at that level we can at least be in the game."
Los Molinos continued putting the ball up with no hesitation in the third quarter, with Sam Smith, Jesus Castillo and Jesse Dodero all successfully testing their 3-point marksmanship, and the Bulldogs pulled ahead 45-31.
"I was trying to keep them under control and play our game, not push as much as they did," said Los Molinos coach Christopher Cumpston.
The Bulldogs' coach - who played high school basketball for Shellabarger, said he was happy with how his team kept its cool despite the pace and aggressiveness of the action. "It's been a big focal point - composure; plus running the offense and handling things when they don't go our way."
Malachi Jones, who led Mercy with 16 points, scored many of those by taking it to the hole and challenging the Los Molinos defense.
Smith also scored 17 points for Los Molinos. Ryan Miller added seven, with Dodero and Castillo adding five points each for the Bulldogs (6-11, 1-3 Five Star League).
Garcia collected 14 rebounds for Mercy (4-11, 0-4 Five Star).
The two teams meet again Feb. 12 in Los Molinos.
The Bulldogs played at Liberty on Tuesday, while the Warriors hosted Redding Christian on Tuesday and play at U-Prep on Friday.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.