The “CCC” chant could be heard just a few feet away from the visitors’ locker room at the new Merced High gym on Tuesday night after the Turlock Bulldogs secured their second straight Central California Conference title with a 51-48 victory.
In their final season competing in the CCC, the Bulldogs gave it their all — despite missing their scoring leader in Jaydon Williams on Tuesday — winning their 10th straight league game and securing the CCC title in front of a loud Bears crowd.
“One of our goals was to win the CCC this year and so we talked about that the last two days,” said Turlock head coach Mark Musselman. “If we come in and beat Merced at their place, nobody can touch us in the CCC, so the girls knew they needed to take care of business and they did.”
Turlock was anchored by senior Hope Salsig, who made clutch shots for her team throughout the game. Salsig led all scorers for Turlock with 17 points. Sarah Musselman, who was dealing with an injury, was second on the team in scoring with 10 points.
“Jaydon is out with an ACL and Sarah has multiple bone marrow contusions, the femur, tibia, and fibula, she hurts, but she can play long as she can tolerate the pain,” said Musselman. “It was good, nice to have her back in the rotation, but it was a team win, other people set screens and got her the ball tonight.”
Turlock’s defense came out ready and contained Merced’s offense, allowing just four points while scoring in a low scoring first quarter.
The ‘Dogs closed out the second with a 18-8 run, leading 26-12 at the half.
Merced came out firing in the third, taking advantage of points off turnovers and outscored Turlock 19-8 in the third, but Turlock still led 34-31 by the start of the fourth.
“I wasn’t worried coming into the game because of what we have worked on at practice and when those two (Sarah and Jaydon) went down we just had to change what we do,” said Musselman.
Merced continued to stay in the game, but Turlock pushed away and led by 12 points at one point in the final five minutes.
The deficit was cut to 49-48 with 10 seconds left, but Turlock’s Salsig made her final two free throws securing the three-point victory and title.
“Hope was phenomenal tonight, she hit some big threes in the first half and big free throws in the fourth quarter. It was a good team win; Mackenzie was great inside and Bush, never played basketball until this year, and she was just phenomenal tonight, and our bench, the energy was there all night long.”
With two league games remaining, Turlock’s overall record goes to 20-4 and 10-0 in the CCC as the win secures back to back 20-plus win seasons after they went 20-8 last season.
Turlock has beaten Merced in five straight games after winning on Tuesday to close out their career in the CCC on top.
The Bulldogs have not lost to Merced since Jan. 12, 2016, when they fell 64-52.
“I could not be prouder of this group of girls, I told them, there are a lot of teams with a lot of talent, but they are a team in every sense of the word,” said Musselman. “They are unselfish and they don’t care who takes a shot, they are a team.”
MacKenzie Ussery scored eight for Turlock, while six different players scored for the Bulldogs.
Turlock’s next game will be at home against Buhach Colony at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.