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Ceres' prospective playoff looms
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A member of Ceres High School's varsity girls basketball team since her freshman year, Bryce Ford has experienced a tremendous amount of individual success.

Ford was voted Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player following a sensational sophomore season in 2010-11. She averaged 18.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Bryce averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds on her way to earning first-team all-conference as a junior. She was also named Ceres High's Female Athlete of the Year.

None of Ford's teams have qualified for the playoffs.

"It's my senior year," Bryce said. "I'll be very happy if we make it. We all want it really bad because of the position we're in. We want to prove to people we can do it."

The Sac-Joaquin Section released its second installment of power ratings for boys and girls basketball on Monday. Ceres High's girls (10-7, 6-4) and boys (13-11, 6-4) would be seeded 14th and 15th, respectively, in Division-III tournament play if playoffs started this week.

Central Valley's boys (10-14, 4-5) and girls (4-5, 9-13) would not participate because both teams finished outside the top 16 in their respective divisions.

"It's not a surprise," Ceres High head coach Vanessa Morris said while talking about her team's success. "When you work hard, good things happen."

Ceres High's girls last participated in the playoffs in 2008-09. The Bulldogs had their string of consecutive postseason appearances snapped at 14 a year earlier.

"I had success as a player," said Morris, who averaged 28.9 points per game while leading the Bulldogs to a 31-1 overall record, an undefeated Central California Conference campaign (16-0) and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II semifinal playoff appearance as a senior. "I try to bring a lot of energy to the team. Shawna Nunes and Phil de la Porte have been great mentors to me."

Added Bryce: "Coach Morris is hard on us because she wants us to be better."

Ford, freshman Nicole Bates and sophomore Ryleigh Honberger are Ceres High's top three players.

Nicole's emergence has taken pressure off Bryce.

"That's the biggest thing," Ford said. "If it was me and no Sissy (Bates) we'd be struggling. She plays a huge role on our team. She has so much energy."

Ceres High's boys will try to improve on their No. 15 ranking this week.

Jimbo Pernetti, Harman Chung and Abel Reyes will lead the way against Los Banos and Central Valley.

"I figured we'd be right around there," Bulldogs head coach Brian de la Porte said. "It should motivate us a little more now. We have something to play for. That's all you can ask for."

Central Valley's boys, No. 28 in Division II, lost to first-place Patterson and third-place Ceres High by a combined three points in recent weeks.

"We start one sophomore and four juniors," head coach Darryl Dickson said. "We've been very competitive against the top teams. We're just making young mistakes. We'll make the playoffs next year."

Central Valley's girls, No. 24 in Division II, will in all likelihood miss the playoffs for the first time in two seasons.

Barring a major collapse, Patterson will end the Hawks' two-year reign in the WAC.

Central Valley has relied heavily on Brittany Martinez and Mia Lorenzo this season.

"I know it's a long shot," Hawks head coach Jesse Padilla said while talking about his team's playoff and league title aspirations. "Anything is possible. But we're going to need some help."

In 2007-08, Ceres High's boys appeared headed for the playoffs.

The Bulldogs lost five of their final seven league games following a 5-2 start.

Central Valley eliminated Ceres High from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season. The Hawks avenged a 41-point loss with a 56-48 victory.

The shocking defeat dropped Ceres High from No. 14 to 17 in the power ratings.

"I know it sounds cliché," de la Porte said. "But all we can do is focus on our next opponent. We can't worry about what the numbers are. We just got to win games. We have our work cut out for us."

"We're happy to be where we're at," Morris said. "We can't look ahead. We have to finish strong."