UC Merced Men’s & Women’s Basketball Tip Off Conference Openers at home Saturday Night

(By UC Merced Athletics) The University of California, Merced men’s and women’s basketball team open up California Pacific Conference play on Hostetler Court Saturday night against Cal State Maritime.

The women, searching for their fourth straight conference championship, tip-off at 5:30pm while the men follow at 7:30pm.

Head coach Sarah Hopkins-Chery on the women’s side is 5-0 against the Keelhaulers in her UC Merced career, including a 76-56 win in the 2015-16 Cal Pac Championship game to finish a perfect 10-0 against conference opponents in her first season at the helm.

The men have found success as well against the Keelhaulers and earned two wins against the opponent while they were nationally ranked.

Below are the top five victories against one of the most successful programs in the California Pacific Conference.


UC Merced men’s basketball knocked off a ranked opponent for the first time in program history when Michael Yonemoto drilled the game-winning basket with five seconds left in overtime. Cal State Maritime was ranked #23 at the time and were the defending Cal Pac Champs, while the Bobcats were coming off their first NAIA season and were looking to start 3-1 in Cal Pac play. The game was tightly contested throughout and featured 20 lead changes and 14 ties. In overtime, the Bobcats trailed all the way up until the game-winning shot from Yonemoto, who finished with 12 points and four assists. The Bobcats first ever All-American, Aki Chambers, led the team with 18 points and grabbed three offensive rebounds. Under head coach John Sykes, the Bobcats went on to finish with their best Cal Pac record to this date, 7-3, and made it to the second round of the conference tournament.



Courtney Danna had a career-high 30 points and the UC Merced women’s basketball team picked up a 70-64 win over the Keelhaulers on Hostetler Court. Danna shot an impressive  67 percent (10-15) from the floor, 67 percent (4-6) from beyond the arc and 100 percent (6-6) at the charity stripe. The All-American Honorable Mention and Cal Pac Player of the Year also had six assists, four rebounds and three steals. The win marked the first win against Maritime for head coach Sarah Hopkins-Chery and it gave the Bobcats a 4-0 start in conference play. Other notables from the game include 13 points from the Bobcats all-time scoring leader, Shelby Howard, and nine rebounds from Brittany Martinez.



In head coach Kevin Pham‘s first season, the University of California Merced, men’s basketball team beat No. 23 Cal State Maritime, 61-58, to snap the Keelhaulers 16 game-winning streak against Cal Pac opponents. The victory also marked the first ranked win under Pham. The Bobcats trailed by as many as 17 points midway through the second half before Aaron Laflin and Ben Nguyen sparked a late offensive surge with a trio of three-point field goals in a two minute span to cut the deficit to seven. Moments later, after Maritime answered to regain a double-digit lead, the Bobcats went on a 14-2 run to win the game in front of one of the largest crowds (550) ever inside the Joseph. E. Gallo Recreation & Wellness Center. Laflin notched his first career double-double, with 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.



The University of California, Merced women’s basketball team knocked off Cal State Maritime, 69-64, to finish a perfect 8-0 in California Pacific Conference Play and became the first team at UC Merced to accomplish that feat. After falling behind by nine points within the first five minutes, Shelby Howard and Jecenia Trinidad took over the game and led the Bobcats on a 25-11 run to tie the game and eventually take a five point lead towards the end of the first half. The Bobcats never trailed from that point on, but did find themselves in danger of falling behind as the Keelhaulers had the ball with 75 seconds left tied at 64. Howard forced the opponent into a turnover and pushed the ball ahead to Courtney Danna, who sunk a three-point field goal to give the Bobcats a 67-64 lead. Mia Shannon grabbed a rebound after a Keelhauler miss with 27 seconds left and the Bobcats would go to extend their lead at the charity stripe and beat the Keelhaulers by five. Howard was the game’s top scorer with 20 points and Shannon notched a double-double with 11 points and ten rebounds. The game also marked Howard’s final regular season game in her career and in total she recorded her 24th 20-point game.



Courtney Danna‘s 26 point effort led the UC Merced women’s basketball team to their second straight California Pacific Conference Championship. The Bobcats began to run away from Cal State Maritime in the second half and built their lead to as many as 27 points after a pair of three-point field goals from Danna and Aubrey Hayes. The final score was 76-56 and it gave Sarah Hopkins-Chery a perfect 10-0 record against Cal Pac opponents in her first year as the head coach. Besides Danna’s 26 points, she hauled in eight rebounds and delivered four assists. Brittany Martinez was the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points and tallied four blocks. Jecenia Trinidad recorded a double-double with 11 points and ten rebounds and Hayes was the fourth Bobcat in double-figures and finished with ten points.

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