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CV girls win share of conference crown, advance to playoffs
Several members of Los Banos' varsity girls basketball team traveled to Phil de la Porte Gymnasium on Thursday to root for underdog Ceres High, which sought to play spoiler against Central Valley.

Their presence provided additional motivation for the Hawks, who made history by capturing their first-ever league crown and playoff berth with a 48-28 victory over the Bulldogs on the final day of the Western Athletic Conference season.

"We noticed them when they walked in," Central Valley senior leader Alyssa Long said. "It gave us more drive to win."

The Hawks shared the conference championship with Los Banos. The two teams compiled identical 8-2 records. Ceres High, which would have dashed Central Valley's league title and postseason hopes with a victory, finished 2-8.

"I really believe hard work pays off," Hawks head coach Jesse Padilla said. "It's a special thing to see. I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Added Long: "Basketball is a long season. We didn't lose focus. Knowing we were one step away was motivation. It's a good feeling to see everything come together. It's emotional, relieving and exciting. I couldn't be prouder of our whole program."

Just about all of Central Valley's players contributed last Thursday.

Penny Chanthavong and sophomore Brittany Martinez led all scorers with nine points apiece. Vivien Fermil, Eva Noorzai and Myra Naranjo tallied seven, six and five points, respectively. Long added three points. Diana Carmona, Melinda Camarillo, Amanda Wheeler and Cynthia Andrade collected two points apiece.

Geena Wade had one point.

Bryce Ford and Ashton Frampton both scored a team-high six points for the Bulldogs. Lili Jaimes and Bethany Mazza collected five points each. Jessica Ellsworth (three points) and Elizabeth Nunes (three points) chipped in as well.

Focused on the task at hand, Central Valley built a 25-15 lead in the first half. The Hawks outscored the Bulldogs 13-3 in the opening period.

"There was pressure but our nerves didn't get to us," Long said while talking about the magnitude of last week's game.

Central Valley's play in the second half was even more impressive.

The Hawks increased their lead to 21 points in the third quarter.

"Both teams played hard," Jaimes said. "They just made more baskets."

"They did what they had to do," Ceres High head coach Shawna Nunes said. "They pounded the ball inside and hit shots. We were flat."

Nunes announced her retirement leading up to the game.

She was greeted by former players prior to tip-off.

She also received a standing ovation.

Central Valley exhibited sportsmanship when the final buzzer sounded. The Hawks suppressed their excitement.

"We have the utmost respect for Nunes and all of her players," Long said.

"It would have meant a lot to play spoiler," Jaimes said. "We also wanted to send her (coach Nunes) off with a win more than anything."

"We're all going out for pizza right now," Padilla said. "We'll celebrate there."

The Hawks have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in 2010-11.

Central Valley, 5-11 in the Valley Oak League a season ago, reached both of its goals

The Hawks are league champions. Central Valley also qualified for the playoffs.

"Those are the two things I wanted to accomplish before I left high school," said Long, a fourth-year varsity player. "I'm proud of my team. It's not an individual thing."