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Bulldogs erase double-digit deficit, win crosstown showdown
Binder Atwal picked the perfect time to bury his only 3-pointer of the game.

The Ceres High varsity boys basketball standout brought Bulldog fans to their feet when he evened the score at 48-all with 11 seconds left in regulation.

Crosstown-rival Central Valley had a comfortable 11-point lead at the 1:30 mark of the third period.

Atwal finished with eight points in the fourth quarter as Ceres High rallied for a 60-55 win over the Hawks in overtime on the final day of the Western Athletic Conference season Friday night at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

"We're going to live and die with him (Binder)," Bulldogs head coach Brian de la Porte said. "That's what you do with your best players."

Added Atwal: "We won it as a team."

Binder converted eight of 12 foul shots and netted a game-high 21 points for Ceres High, which finished in third place in the WAC standings (7-5). Harman Chung, Jimbo Pernetti, Jr. Garcia, Abel Reyes and Caden Johnson tallied 14, 13, six, four and two points, respectively.

Miguel Rodriguez poured in a team-high 16 points for fourth-place Central Valley (4-8).

Camron Thornton, Jaron Dickson, Diego Sanchez and Ja'Quan Gardner had 14, eight, seven and six points, respectively. Jordan Sek and Milton Uti both scored two points.

The Bulldogs improved their all-time record versus the Hawks to 10-3. Ceres High has won the last six meetings.

"It's very disappointing," Rodriguez said. "I thought we were going to win today until he (Atwal) hit the 3."

Dickson's 3-point bank shot increased the Hawks' lead to 40-29 late in the third period.

Ceres High outscored Central Valley 31-15 the rest of the way, including 12-7 in the extra period.

Gardner, a star running back at the varsity level as a sophomore last fall, put the Hawks ahead by three (48-45) with two free throws at the 1:17 mark of the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs executed their final play on offense to perfection. Atwal was supposed to drive to the basket but couldn't pass up a wide-open 3-point attempt.

"There was a lot of time left on the clock," Atwal said. "We didn't put our heads down. We always think we can beat everybody."

Said de la Porte: "We switched our defense and started getting some stops. We broke their rhythm. Our kids just battled."

Central Valley missed its final shot attempt, a 3-pointer from the right wing, at the end of regulation.

Ceres High made all eight of its free throws in overtime. Five different players contributed on offense.

Garcia's mid-range jumper gave the Bulldogs a 58-53 lead.

Reyes buried two foul shots with 8.9 seconds to play. "Abel's been struggling with his free throws," de la Porte said. "He knocked both of them down. That was awesome."

Bulldog fans piled on Ceres High players near midcourt after the rivalry game.

"It felt like we won the NBA Finals," said Atwal, who along with fellow senior Jose Nava, suited up for the Bulldogs for the last time.

"I wasn't in the mix," de la Porte stated. "I was just watching, soaking it in. It's just a special moment. It's the last time this group will be together. It's a great win. You can't beat that. They were warriors tonight."

Rodriguez, who managed to score just three points in the second half because of foul trouble, tried to tune out Ceres High's postgame celebration.

"I saw it but ignored it," he said.