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Yuba men's hoops win 17th straight
The 49ers were thrown off their game on Tuesday, challenged enough by Alameda to give up the most points to any Bay Valley Conference opponent all season.
That didn't happen on Wednesday, much to the pleasure of Yuba College men's basketball coach Doug Cornelius.
"We had a little heart-to-heart talk at the shootaround today, and I told them, 'Look, we need to go on an eight-game winning streak to win state,'" he said. "I think it's becoming a little more real to them."
After Wednesday, it became the goal.
Yuba routed Merritt College 97-58 in the semifinal of the BVC Tournament in their home gym to win its 17th consecutive game, improve to 28-3, and most likely, solidify a No. 2 ranking in Northern California.
"I didn't expect that," Cornelius said following the win. "When we play hard and physical like that, we're tough to beat."
The 49ers were more than tough for Merritt, which simply had a difficult enough time running its offense, let alone trying to keep up with Yuba's high-shooting percentage from the field.
But the game didn't begin that way.
Both teams struggled in the early minutes — Yuba clung to an 8-7 lead seven minutes into the first half — then Anthony Romero took over.
The sophomore guard drained three 3-pointers in less than two minutes to spark an offense that stayed hot until the final buzzer.
Romero finished with 23 points, including two coast-to-coast dunks that brought the home crowd to their feet. One ended the first half, the other opened the second half, and both came off steals.
It was Kevin Crabb, however, who put on the clinic from above the rim — throwing it down four times on his way to 17 points. He also finished seven boards and three blocks for the 49ers, who really began making the contest a boatrace in the final minutes of the first half.
The 49ers responded to Merritt's full-court press with their own 10 minutes into the game, and the Thunderbirds' already-struggling offense completely stalled.
Anto Olah contributed good hustle minutes early for the 49ers. He finished with nine points and 11 rebounds, including a couple of putbacks in the first half that continued to push Yuba's lead.
Merritt could only muster 13 points with four minutes to go in the opening half and finished with 22. Meanwhile, Yuba closed the half on a 30-15 run and went up by 21 points.
But it didn't stop there — Yuba never eased up on the pedal. The Niners took a 60-28 lead at the 14:30 mark after a Cody Kale floater found the bottom of the net.
A 3-point play by Romero made the score 79-43 with 8 minutes left.
With 5 minutes to go, Kale found Crabb inside for a dunk to make the score 91-47.
And the biggest lead of the game came with 3 minutes remaining when Caleb Johnson used patience to complete a 3-point play inside.
The lopsided win is something any coach would love to see, but to Cornelius, nothing means more when his players listen.
"I heard some of the guys at halftime say, 'Seven-and-a-half more games to go,'" he said. "That was kind of cool."
Now, it's seven more to go.
The 49ers will host Contra Costa in the conference championship on Friday at 7 p.m. before the postseason begins next week.
CONTACT Bryan DeMain at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4789. Find him on Facebook at advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADbdemain.