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Ceres' frosh-soph team stage stunning comeback
Ceres High School's frosh-soph boys basketball team staged a stunning comeback.

Oakdale appeared headed for an easy victory before the short-handed Bulldogs battled back for a thrilling 52-50 win on Friday at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

The victory had special meaning for Ceres High, which persevered after starting guard Jimbo Pernetti was rushed to the hospital after breaking two bones in his right arm while diving for a loose ball.

"We played our hearts out for Jimbo," Bulldogs' leading scorer Binder Atwal said. "We have so much respect for him. He's one of our key players. He's a good friend to everyone on the team. If we would have lost, we would have let him down."

Atwal burned the Mustangs for a career-high 32 points, including 27 after intermission. Binder scored all 13 of Ceres High's fourth-quarter points.

"I started taking it to the rim in the second half instead of settling for outside shots," he said.

Atwal's 3-pointer from the right baseline evened the score at 50-all with less than a minute remaining in the final period.

Binder also accounted for the game-winning basket. He converted a contested reverse layup off a steal with 8 seconds to play.

"It was a gamble," Atwal said. "If I didn't get it, they would have probably scored."

Oakdale's final two attempts on the offensive end, including a putback from point-blank range, were off the mark.

The Bulldogs avenged an earlier-season loss to the Mustangs.

"We responded," Binder said. "We played smart."

Ceres High won its fourth straight game and improved to 7-8 in the Valley Oak League standings thanks in large part to the play of Atwal and Nick Welsh.

Welsh tallied 15 of his 19 points in the first half.

Manny Hernandez, Justin Martinez and Vince Fauria led Oakdale with 19, 13 and 10 points, respectively.

Ceres High will travel to crosstown rival Central Valley this Friday. The VOL finale will get underway at 5:45 p.m. The Bulldogs won the first meeting with relative ease.