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Ceres High varsity girls experience resurgence
Ceres High School's varsity girls basketball team had its string of 14 consecutive playoff appearances snapped in 2007-08.

Jode Johnson and the Bulldogs had reason to be concerned this year after struggling to a 4-8 record in non-conference play.

"I seriously did not think we would make playoffs after preseason," the junior forward-guard said. "Once league started, everything changed."

Ceres High won seven of its final nine Valley Oak League games, including five straight, to earn the No. 12 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

The Bulldogs beat Central Valley, Weston Ranch, Sierra, East Union and Oakdale

during their unbeaten streak.

Ceres High ended its conference schedule with victories over Weston Ranch and Central Valley.

"Everybody did what they were supposed to do," said Johnson, who helped the Bulldogs avenge blowout losses to East Union and Oakdale.

"It took a team effort."

Ceres High relied heavily on Johnson, 6-foot-1 sophomore center Jamie Beck and senior point guard Aimee Gunzenhauser. They were nicknamed the "trifecta" by their coaches.

"We had more than one player we could count on," head coach Shawna Nunes said. "That's why we're a good team."

Johnson averaged 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The conference's No. 2 leading scorer buried game-winning shots against VOL champion East Union and fifth-place Sierra.

"She was our go-to person," Nunes aid.

Beck ranked first in league in rebounding (13.9) and blocks (4.4), and in the top 10 in scoring (11.7). She had eight double-doubles.

"We haven't had a true post player like that in a while," Nunes said. "Because of Jamie's presence in the paint, Jode was able to drive more."

Gunzenhauser averaged 11.6 points and 10.5 rebounds. Aimee amassed seven double-doubles.

"She stepped up this year in a role she has never played for us," Nunes said.

Bulldog teammates Lili Jaimes, Leah Rose, Amy Raymond, Bethany Mazza, Haley Duarte, Emily Alvarez, Alyssa Eudy and Vanessa Cuevas also contributed during the course of the season.

"All of our kids got better," Nunes said.

Ceres High posted a 13-14 overall record, placed third in league (9-5) and returned to the postseason thanks in large part to its relentless style of play.

Johnson, Beck, Gunzenhauser and the Bulldogs had a forgettable 2007-08 campaign (9-16, 5-9)

"I'm very surprised," Jode said while talking about her team's turnaround. "I didn't even know we'd have a chance at playoffs because of what happened last year. It's a very big accomplishment."

"We got a solid group," Nunes added. "They have the same attitude and mindset of the teams of the past."

Ceres High will vie for the VOL title and another playoff berth in 2009-10. The Bulldogs return all but one player, excluding Gunzenhauser.

"We should be strong again next year," Nunes said. "We're going to be looking for two people to replace what she (Aimee) did."