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A year to remember for Dawgs
Ceres High varsity boys basketball head coach Brian de la Porte had high praise for his team following Wednesday's 65-45 loss to Foothill in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs last Wednesday in Sacramento.

"I told them how proud I was," he said. "We had a great season. Everybody played a part."

The Bulldogs (17-9) returned to the playoffs following a three-year absence. Ceres High also claimed the Western Athletic Conference championship outright with an 8-2 mark. The Bulldogs hadn't won a league title in 17 years.

The core of this year's team will be lost to graduation.

Seniors John Dhillon, Edgar Lopez, Chris Hilgen, George Borden, Jeremy Cagle, Kendall Vertner and Mehtab Sekhon helped lead the Bulldogs' frosh-soph team to a first-place finish in the Valley Oak League standings in 2008-09.

"We're all sad it's over," de la Porte said. "This team will never be together again. I wish I could coach them for another two months. It's going to be weird the next few weeks not having practice or games."

Lopez, Hilgen and Dhillon tallied 13, 11 and eight points, respectively, in their final game.

Binder Atwal added nine points.

Jose Nava and sophomore Jimbo Pernetti both scored two points.

The 11th-seeded Bulldogs missed five of eight free throws and all seven of their 3-point attempts in falling behind 29-19 in the first half against the No. 6 Mustangs (20-8).

Ceres High shot just 59 percent (10-for-17) from the foul line for the game.

"We didn't get the result we wanted but we played hard," de la Porte said. "We just didn't shoot the ball very well. That was the difference. We weren't overmatched by any means."

More than 275 Bulldog fans made the three-hour roundtrip for last week's playoff game. Ceres High played in front of huge crowds most of the season.

"We almost had more people than they did," de la Porte said. "We had a lot of support, which was nice to see."

Those same fans were in attendance when Ceres High won the WAC title outright at crosstown-rival Central Valley during the final day of the regular season. The Bulldogs would have had to settle for a runner-up finish had they lost to Livingston earlier in the week.

"After we lost those two games (to Central Catholic and Los Banos), that was the longest three weeks of my life," de la Porte said. "There was a lot of pressure. We were in a must-win situation. The Livingston game was such a big high. It felt like 1,000 pounds was lifted off my shoulders after we beat Central Valley. We didn't want to share the championship (with Livingston)."

Ceres High reached both of its goals this year.

"No one is going to remember us losing to Foothill," de la Porte said.