SANTA ANA - The Dons used several late defensive stands and perfect free throw shooting from Ashley Whisler to defeat Merced College 61-52 and advance to the championship game of their own tournament. The Dons will now face Moorpark College in the championship game on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Merced will play West Hills-Lemoore College for third place at 2:00 p.m.
Trailing by 11 points with 5:30 remaining in the game, the Dons used four steals along with perfect shooting in a three-minute stretch to rally back and tie the game at 52-52. The rally was started by a Whisler three before a pair of free throws by Alexus Lopez. Carly Ducat then hit a layup before Whisler converted two free throws to pull the Dons within two. Finally, Lopez got her second steal during the rally and hit a breakaway layup to tie the game at 52-52.
The tie was broken by two more Whisler free throws before Lisa Tran hit a jumper that put the Dons up 56-52. Lopez followed that with a three-pointer to give the Dons breathing room before Whisler sealed the game with a pair of free throws. In total, Whisler finished a perfect 16-for-16 from the charity stripe as she led the way with 31 points.
Prior to the Dons rally, Merced had turned a two-point halftime lead into 1 15-point lead just six and a half minutes into the second half. But the Dons wouldn't let the Blue Devils pull away, setting up the late theatrics.
The consolation championship was set up first with San Diego Mesa College beating Bakersfield College 55-53 before College of the Desert defeated MiraCosta College 60-53. Mesa and Desert will face off in that game at 12:00 p.m.
In the first semifinal game, Moorpark College used timely three-point shooting late to defeat West Hills-Lemoore 58-49. Moorpark will take on the host Dons at 4:00 p.m. in the championship game.