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Ceres High boys will vie for WAC title, Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth
Ceres High varsity boys basketball head coach Brian de la Porte believes his team has the talent to compete for the Western Athletic Conference title and berth to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

The Bulldogs posted a 9-18 overall record, finished third in the WAC (7-5) and fell two wins shy of qualifying for the postseason in 2011-12.

"We got a good group of kids," de la Porte said. "We're a tight-knit family. That's the difference between us and a lot of other teams."

All-everything Binder Atwal was lost to graduation. The standout guard averaged 19.5 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game his senior year. He was named to the WAC First Team. Atwal averaged 10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals as a junior.

"We got guys who are ready to step up and fill his shoes," de la Porte said. "We're going to try to get better every day. That's the main focus."

Ceres High returns six players from last year's team, including Jimbo Pernetti (Sr.), Caden Johnson (Sr.), Harman Chung (Jr.), Abel Reyes (Jr.), Jr. Garcia (Jr.) and Angel Garcia (Jr.).

Dylan Canatsy (Jr.), Terry Brogdon (Jr.), Michael Ghimenti (Jr.) and Jimmy Bates (Jr.) are newcomers.

Canatsy, Brogdon, Ghimenti and Bates suited up for the 5-7 JV Bulldogs' basketball team a season ago.

Pernetti was an honorable-mention WAC selection as a junior.

The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

Jimbo was a part of Ceres High's 2010-11 WAC-championship squad.

He was voted league MVP for baseball last spring.

"He's the rock of our program," de la Porte said. "A kid like that comes around once every 10 years. He's got it all. He just needs to be more vocal and demanding because it's his team. We'll go as far as he takes us. I've challenged him on that already."

Brian and Jimbo grew up around Ceres High athletics.

Brian played for (1996-97) and coached with (2004-05) Jim Pernetti Sr. at the JV level.

"We had the same life," de la Porte said. "Both of our dads are coaches. I've known Jimbo his whole life. I remember when he was born. He's like family. You can win with great kids like that. His parents raised him right."

Ceres High climbed as high as No. 20 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III power ratings last year. The top 16 teams advanced to the postseason.

The Bulldogs won eight of 10 games en route to a first-place finish in the WAC in 2010-11. Ceres High compiled a 17-9 record and qualified for the playoffs.

The Bulldogs finished 13-14 on the year and tied for fourth place (7-9) in the Valley Oak League standings during the 2009-10 campaign.

"I think we can compete for a WAC championship and make playoffs," de la Porte said. "We got a totally different team with a different makeup. We're going to be a lot more balanced this year. We got a lot more size. We got more depth. That's going to be a big benefit."

Brogdon, Chung and Canatsy stand 6-6, 6-5 and 6-3, respectively.

Central Catholic and Los Banos shared the WAC title with identical 10-2 records last season. Patterson (8-4) Central Valley (4-8), Pacheco (2-10) and Livingston (1-11) placed second, fourth, fifth and sixth.

Reigning WAC MVP/Colgate University bound 6-foot-9 center John Fenton will try to lead Central Catholic to its second straight conference title. He averaged 15.8 points, 16.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game his junior year.

"They're definitely the favorites," de la Porte said. "But it doesn't mean they're unbeatable. In my opinion, we're the second-best team in the league and we're going to compete for a championship. Our kids expect to win. We know it's a process."

Ceres High will compete against Central Valley twice this season.

The Bulldogs have won the last six meetings.

"That's a long time from now," de la Porte said. "We'll be ready to play. We've had a good run. Our kids take pride in that."