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Dawgs, Hawks experience individual, team success
The winter prep sports season ended on March 5. Now is a good time to highlight the accomplishments of top individuals and teams.

Male Athlete-Ceres High School's varsity wrestling program has qualified just three individuals for the CIF State Championships since 2002. Gabriel Balderas, a 112-pound sophomore, punched his ticket to the prestigious meet following a top-six finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament. Balderas won two of four matches at State, captured the Western Athletic Conference championship and finished third at Divisionals. He compiled a 41-14 overall record.

Female Athlete-Ceres High varsity girls basketball star Bryce Ford won the Western Athletic Conference MVP Award. The 5-foot-10 sophomore averaged 18.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists. She also shot 44 percent from the floor.

Male Newcomer-John Dhillon, standout senior point guard on Ceres High School's varsity boys basketball squad, was voted WAC MVP. He averaged 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.8 steals while leading the Bulldogs to their first league title in 17 years and playoff appearance since 2006-07. Dhillon was a role player as a junior.

Female Newcomer-In desperate need of a presence inside, Central Valley High School varsity girls basketball coach Jesse Padilla promoted Brittany Martinez from the frosh-soph level. Martinez didn't disappoint. The 6-foot-2 sophomore averaged 7.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 rebounds for the WAC co-champion Hawks.

Coach-Central Valley's Jesse Padilla (girls basketball) and Rob Beckhart (wrestling), and Ceres High's Brian de la Porte (boys basketball) guided their respective teams to success-filled seasons. Central Valley's girls basketball team won a share of the Western Athletic Conference title (8-2) and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. Central Valley's wrestling squad finished second overall in the WAC standings (4-1), participated in the Section team competition and sent 11 individuals to Divisionals. Brian's Bulldogs (17-9, 8-2) also made history by securing their first league title in 17 years and playoff berth since 2006-07.

Team-Central Valley's varsity girls basketball team accomplished several firsts this year, including winning a league title, qualifying for the playoffs and beating Ceres High. The Hawks shared the Western Athletic Conference championship with Los Banos. Alyssa Long, Myra Naranjo, Eva Noorzai and Brittany Martinez were major contributors.

Individual Performance-Ceres High's Gabriel Balderas won his first three matches at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling Tournament, including a 2-1 thriller over Buhach Colony's Johnny Salazar in the quarterfinals. The comeback victory ensured Balderas an automatic berth to the CIF State Meet. Gabriel lost twice by decision to Salazar earlier this year.

Game-Central Valley High School's varsity girls basketball team earned its first league title and playoff appearance on the final day of the Western Athletic Conference season. The Hawks (15-8, 8-2) avoided a major letdown by beating crosstown-rival Ceres High 48-28 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. Central Valley posted a 7-20 overall record and finished in seventh place in the Valley Oak League standings (4-12) in 2009-10.

Honorable Mention-Ceres High's Wesley Schwieger (wrestling), Nick Serratos (wrestling). Edgar Lopez (boys basketball) and Lili Jaimes (girls basketball), and Central Valley's Josh Beckhart (wrestling), Jeffrey Phetsomphou (wrestling), Alyssa Long (girls basketball), Myra Naranjo (girls basketball) and David Griffin (boys basketball).