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Bulldogs avoid upset
In its first season of varsity girls basketball, Central Valley High School posted an 0-14 record in Valley Oak League play in 2006-07. The Hawks lost twice by a combined 67 points to rival Ceres High.

The Bulldogs escaped with a 45-38 road victory over Central Valley in the first meeting between the teams this year Thursday night. The Hawks managed to keep the contest close despite competing with a thin roster due to the dismissal of five players for disciplinary reasons.

"He (coach Jesse Padilla) told us he was proud of us and to keep our heads up," Hawks junior shooting guard Julie Calderon said. "It was a great game. We all tried our hardest."

With junior point guard Brittany Lusk leading the way, the 3-3 Bulldogs staved off the Hawks' (0-6) upset bid. She downplayed her offensive performance against Central Valley. Brittany acknowledged the play of her teammates instead.

"It's not that big of a deal," said Brittany, who totaled a game-high 21 points. "We played defense and made our free throws. That's what we work on."

Ceres High's Kaylee Brown and Cassie Rayford both tallied five points. Jode Johnson and Jamie Beck had four points apiece. Amy Raymond and Aimee Gunzenhauser chipped in three and two points, respectively. Stephanie Yankovich added one point.

Calderon scored 12 of her team-high 14 points after intermission. Whitney Richardson, Phylicia Martinez and Marissa Cabusas finished with 10, seven and three points, respectively. Brooke Davis and Latrisha Jordan each had two points.

In the end, it was Ceres High's dominance in the second and fourth quarters that propelled the Bulldogs to victory.

Ceres High outscored Central Valley 36-16 during that time. Lusk had 12 points in the fourth. She made all eight of her foul shots. The Bulldogs converted 12 of 18 from the charity stripe in the quarter.

Ceres High held Central Valley scoreless for the opening four minutes of the final period.

"Defense was a big thing," Lusk said. "We shut their two best players down (Calderon and Martinez).

Central Valley actually led 11-7 at the end of the first quarter and 28-27 heading into the fourth. The Hawks played stellar defense for two quarters.

"They put the pressure on and we lost it for a minute," Lusk said. "We came back and that's what matters."

Central Valley overcame a 27-17 deficit in the third quarter on the strength of its swarming defense. A tired Hawks squad couldn't finish off the Bulldogs.

"I knew I wouldn't be able to press the whole game because they wouldn't have anything left at the end," Padilla said. "I'm still proud of all of them. The girls stepped up big time. They played their hearts out."

Added Calderon: "It was big competition this year. We almost got it. The whole school would have been excited."