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Ceres High girls crush short-handed Mustangs
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Oakdale High never stood much of a chance against Ceres High in varsity girls basketball action Thursday night at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

The Bulldogs beat the severely depleted Mustangs 54-17 in Valley Oak League play. Oakdale played without three of its top players. Returning all-league selection Raleigh O'Brien was out with the flu. Jennie Paugh was sidelined with a knee injury. Tara Munier suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and headed to the hospital for evaluation at intermission. Two other starters played sick.

"It doesn't matter who's out there," Bulldogs sophomore forward-guard Jode Johnson said. "We're still going to play Ceres ball."

Johnson scored a game-high 13 points for Ceres High, which improved to 5-9 overall, 2-2 in the Valley Oak League. Sophomore Amy Raymond tallied nine points on three 3s. Freshman Jamie Beck and senior Cassie Rayford had eight and six points, respectively. Senior Kaylee Brown and junior Brittany Lusk both contributed five points. Senior Chelsea Lomeli added four points. Junior Aimee Gunzenhauser and freshman Stephanie Yankovich chipped in two points apiece.

"Every player performed to the best of their ability," Bulldogs coach Shawna Nunes said.

Just two players scored for Oakdale, which dropped to 4-12 overall, 0-4 in the VOL. Senior Alexis Drake totaled a team-high nine points. Freshman Cassandra Clark added eight points, including two treys.

The Bulldogs executed on both offense and defense en route to building a 19-point lead in the first half. Ceres High had 22 points in the paint.

The Bulldogs opened the game with a 7-0 run. Johnson put back an offensive rebound and drained a pair of free throws. Yankovich buried a close-range jumper. Lusk converted a layup off a steal. Brown made one of two foul shots.

Ceres High extended its lead to 26-8 in the second quarter by tallying 14 unanswered points inside. Lomeli, Rayford and Brown netted four points apiece. Johnson had two points.

"We really moved the ball well so we got a lot of good shots," Nunes said.

The Bulldogs continued to dominate in the second half on the strength of a 21-0 surge.

Ceres High outscored Oakdale 25-7, including 16-3 in the final eight minutes.

The Bulldogs' fourth-quarter lineup featured three freshmen (Beck, Yankovich and Lilibeth Jaimes) and two sophomores (Johnson and Raymond). They helped Ceres High widen the gap from 24 to 37 points. Raymond buried two 3-pointers. Beck scored six points inside and drained a close-range jumper from the right baseline.

"Every minute they play they're getting better," Nunes said.

Thursday's victory came two days after Ceres High lost 53-34 to first-place Sierra. Nunes said it wasn't tough to get motivated to play short-handed Oakdale.

"It was a win we needed to have," said Nunes, whose team moved to .500 in the VOL standings.