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Daniels, Blue Devils fail to reach playoffs
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Merced College has a dominant women's basketball program. Under head coach Allen Huddleston's guidance, the Blue Devils have never missed the playoffs.

On Feb. 23 in Merced, the Blue Devils lost 60-58 to Sacramento City College and failed to secure a berth in the playoffs for the first time in six years. The winner advanced to the NorCal Regional Playoffs.

"I have never not been in the playoffs either," said Merced freshman guard Quantelle Daniels. "It's shocking." Daniels participated in the postseason every year while playing for the Ceres High varsity girls basketball team.

Daniels, a 2004 Ceres High graduate, cried after the Blue Devils' season-ending loss.

"I was devastated," she said. "I didn't want to talk to anyone after the game."

Daniels scored 13 second-half points against Sacramento City College (13-15). But missed two free throws with 11.6 seconds remaining. She also allowed Sacramento City guard Athena Padilla to score the game-winning basket with .06 seconds left in regulation.

"At the end of the game, I missed two big free throws and was playing defense on the girl who scored the last layup," Daniels said. "I thought she was going to shoot a three."

Daniels and the Blue Devils handled Sacramento City College 70-51 during the regular season.

Merced missed 8 of 15 free throws and 17 of 20 3-pointers during the second meeting.

"They just outworked us," Daniels said.

"I think if we didn't shoot as many threes, we could have done a lot better."

Merced College tied for third in the Central Valley Conference at 7-5 and went 13-15 overall.

The Blue Devils should be much improved next year despite losing two of its top post players to graduation.

Keyasha Brothern, a 2003 Ceres High graduate, will be a major contributor. The sophomore forward/guard was sidelined for the majority of the 2004-05 season with a back injury.

"Next year, I'll be playing with a whole different team," Daniels said.

"I want to take league and win the (NorCal) tournament. I also want to set a record for assists."

Karen McGill dished out a team-record 150 assists in 32 games during the 1995-96 season.

Daniels averaged 7.2 points per game this season. She started at point guard at the beginning of the year. She came off the bench after several players returned from injuries.

"I think I improved a lot, especially my court vision," Daniels said.

"I still have a lot to work on, including my jump shot, 3-point shot, layups, ball-handling skills and conditioning." - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier