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Dawgs enjoy memorable season
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The journey started four years ago.

Coach Shawna Nunes held tryouts for the Ceres High girls basketball program. Four freshmen were promoted to the varsity team, including Heather Mazza, Krystle Brown, Meghan Franksen and Kelsey Sayad.

Tonight at the University of the Pacific's Alex G. Spanos Center, Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad will try to lead the second-seeded Bulldogs past 11th-seeded Woodcreek in the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs.

"I think we can make it to Arco if we play like we're capable of," Mazza said.

If Ceres wins, it will advance to the section championship game, which is being played at Sacramento's Arco Arena on March 5 at 1:30 p.m.

"I hope they do," said Quantelle Daniels, a 2004 Ceres High graduate, who started on the varsity basketball team for four years. "They deserve it."

Daniels, Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad were teammates for three years.

If the Bulldogs lose, it will mark the end of a high-school career for five Bulldog players: Mazza, Brown, Franksen, Sayad and Donna Zaragoza.

"The way they played on Thursday, that's an Arco team," Daniels said.

Ceres routed Vallejo 59-39 in the quarterfinal playoff game at Ceres High School.

If the Bulldogs hold an advantage over Woodcreek, it's experience.

Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad have been to the playoffs every year. In 2002-03, they played against Vacaville in the Division II semifinal game at UOP.

Ceres' Jennifer Arnold and Jessica Mazza have participated in the postseason two years in a row. Arnold, a junior guard, starts alongside Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad.

The Bulldogs also have depth, which is provided by senior guard Donna Zaragoza, junior guard/forward Jessica Mazza, junior center/forward Kristen McClure and sophomore guard Heather Jones.

Woodcreek has just nine players on its active roster, including no seniors.

The Timberwolves (20-8) are led by 5-foot-11 junior forward Amanda Eccleston, 5-8 sophomore guard Daniel Lassiter and 5-11 sophomore forward Kim Albers.

Woodcreek's leading scorer and rebounder, 5-11 senior forward/guard Whitney Gantt, was lost for the season during the Timberwolves' 59-54 win over Galt in the second round of the playoffs.

Gantt had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists before injuring her left knee in the final quarter.

Through two playoffs games, Ceres' opponents averaged 44 points, 31 percent shooting and 20 turnovers.

The Bulldogs averaged 61.5 points, 40.5 percent shooting and 16 turnovers per game.

"If we play great defense, we play great offense," Nunes said.

Win or lose, Ceres has had a memorable season. The Bulldogs won more than 20 games for the third consecutive year and stormed through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad led the way. They helped Ceres continue its winning tradition.

"This is the best team I've been on," Mazza said. "We're having so much fun. Everybody gets along."

- By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier