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Coaches building team chemistry
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Members of the Ceres High girls basketball program will be spending a lot of time together this summer. Coaches Shawna Nunes and Kassi Baker are trying to build team chemistry for the 2005-06 season. The varsity Bulldogs lost five players to graduation, including four starters.

"It doesn't matter if we win or lose," Nunes said. "We use the summer league to see what kids can and can't do."

Ceres' schedule includes more than 20 games.

The Bulldogs will play in an eight-game league at Blaker-Kinser Jr. High and several tournaments.

The league features six teams, including Ceres, Davis, Patterson, Hughson, Pitman and Denair.

"It's a come if you can league," Nunes said.

"It's pretty laid back."

Added Baker: "We're basically going to get a whole season this summer."

Said Nunes: "That's a huge advantage."

The season started on June 2. The Bulldogs posted a 53-39 victory over Hughson.

"We'll play one game a night until the end of June," Nunes said. "Then we go to Tahoe and Reno. We'll play 14 games between those two."

The North Valley High School's Classic Basketball Tournament will be held in Reno, July 9-10.

The 21st Lake Tahoe Girls Basketball Jamboree will be held, July 13-16.

The summer team is mainly made up of players that competed at the varsity level last season, including Jessica Mazza, Jennifer Arnold, Kristen McClure, Heather Jones, Jordan Nash, Emily Coutrakis and Crystal Perez. Erica Arellano, LaJuana Guillory, Kyleesha Williams, Dana Butler, Jamie Boling, Cassie Rayford and Kaylee Brown round out Ceres' roster. They led the JV Bulldogs to the Modesto Metro Conference championship in 2004-05.

"I've had as many as 20 players. And I've had as few as six players," Nunes said. "Whoever shows gets to play."

The Bulldogs have shown a tremendous amount of improvement since the start of the season. On Thursday, they battled back from an eight-point deficit and defeated Hughson, 45-40. Just about every player contributed.

"Everyone was timid the first game," Mazza said.

Mazza is looking forward to the upcoming season. She'll be one of the team's top players.

"I'm excited," she said. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier