Merced’s Rogeene Russell hit two free throws with .08 seconds remaining to beat the College of the Redwoods women’s basketball team 70-68 on Friday in the Corsairs’ season debut in the first round of the Jocelyn Mancebo Classic at Delta College.
In a game that saw 16 lead changes and 10 ties, the Corsairs couldn’t hold on to a five-point lead with less than two minutes remaining.
“We got hit with a couple of tough calls down the stretch, but I’m still very pleased with the way we competed against a quality program,” said CR head coach Doug Oliveira.
CR’s Sheilaann Christy scored a team-high 16 points to lead the Corsairs, while Lili Herrera had 15 and Darnesha Ward scored 11.
Redwoods trailed 28-26 at the half with both teams shooting below 30 percent from the field.
“It was a little bit of a first-game situation early,” Oliveira said. “They got up on us using their quickness and athleticism but we just stuck with it defensively.”
Redwoods held a two-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, but Merced got a basket to tie with 28 seconds to go and took its final lead at the free-throw line with less than a second remaining.
Russell finished the game 12-for-12 from the free-throw line for Merced.
“It was absolutely heartbreaking,” Oliveira said.
Herrera hit two 3-pointers for the Corsairs to lead the team beyond the arc and had a strong return to the court after missing all of last season.
“It’s great to have (Herrera) back,” Oliveira said. “She plays her heart out all over the floor and gives the whole team energy.”
With the loss, the Corsairs drop to 0-1 on the year and will have another difficult challenge on their hands Saturday as they face Consumnes River at 1 p.m.
“They’re supposed to be one of the top teams in Northern California so it’s going to be another huge challenge for us tomorrow,” Oliveira said.