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Angelina Defranco (left), Zakiya Mahoney (middle), Adorah Buggs (right)
Angelina Defranco (left), Zakiya Mahoney (middle), Adorah Buggs (right)

By Tony Gonsalez 
Special to Chabot Athletics 
The Chabot College women's basketball team is headed back to the state championships.

The Gladiators punched their ticket to the California Community College Athletic Association state bracket with a gritty 66-63 win over visiting Merced on Saturday Night.
With the win, the Gladiators head down to West Hills College in Lemoore as the No. 3 seed from the North. They will play Mt. San Antonio College on Thursday at 1 p.m. Chabot advances past the regional for the first time since 2015, when they won the state title during a 31-3 campaign. The 24 wins by the Gladiators are also the most in one season since their championship season.
Chabot, the No. 4 seed in the Northern California Regiolnal, overcame an early even-point deficit before building a 12-point lead and withstood one final run by the Blue Devils.
Zakiya Mahoney overcame a tough shooting night to score a game-high 22 points to pace Chabot, including five in a key stretch in the fourth quarter, to go along with four steals.
Freshman Kayla Taahafe also had a huge performance by scoring 12 of her 15 points in the second half.
"Kayla and Angie (Defranco) were absolutely unbelievable once again tonight," Chabot coach Mark Anger said. "Taahafe has been playing lights out all season and Defranco has been one of the best point guards in the state."
Leading 48-41 heading into the final quarter, the Gladiators (24-6) extended the lead to double digits and when Nyah Willis turned a Merced turnover into an uncontested layup, Chabot had its largest lead on the evening at 57-45 with 6:57 remaining.
The Blue Devils responded with a 10-2 run over the next two minutes to pull within four.
After hitting two free throws, Mahoney answered a Blue Devils basket by scoring in the key on an offensive rebound before splitting a pair from the line to give the Gladiators a 64-58 lead with 53.9 seconds left.
Merced's Shaymany Suarez went in for an uncontested layup and after a Gladiators turnover, hit a 3 with 12.6 left and the Blue Devils were within a point.
Taahafe made 1-of-2 free throws and when the Blue Devils missed a go-ahead 3-point attempt, Willis pulled down a huge rebound before getting fouled with just 2.5 ticks remaining. She made the first before missing the second and Merced was unable to get off a final desperation shot.
Adorah Buggs was also in double figures for Chabot, finishing with 11 points.
Malayalam Kendrick led the Blue Devils with 16 points while Garrett and Sha'nece Garrett added 12 apiece for Merced, who finishes with a 24-6 record.
"We are very happy to be heading to state, but our work isn't done yet," Mahoney said. "Our goal just isn't to make it to state but we want to win it all and bring home another state championship."
Heading in, the Gladiators knew they would get a huge effort from Merced based on their recent success.
The Blue Devils reached the final state final four the last two years, including an appearance in the state finals in 2018.
Merced quickly showed they were ready for Chabot's best by taking early leads of 9-2 and 13-6 in the opening quarter. The Gladiators responded with a 11-2 run to take a 17-15 advantage.
The defense by both teams took over the second as neither team was able to muster much of a run before the Blue Devils closed out the first half with two Garrett free throws and a Hope Salsig 3 as Merced took a 30-26 halftime lead.