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Dawgs struggle from free-throw line
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The Ceres High girls basketball team won't be hosting a playoff game this year. The Merced Bears knocked the Bulldogs out of the race for home-court advantage, and at the same time, kept their slim postseason hopes alive.

Ceres ranked ninth in the Feb. 10 Division I basketball power ratings. Merced ranked 18. The top 16 teams advance to the playoffs and the top eight host.

The Bears upset the Bulldogs 66-62 Thursday night at Ceres High School.

Ceres made just 12 of 21 free throws.

"We make our free throws, we win the game," said Ceres coach Shawna Nunes.

Added Merced coach John Bliss: "We were very fortunate to get out of here with a win."

Merced improved to 6-5 in the Central California Conference, 14-12 overall. Ceres fell to 8-3 in the CCC, 18-7 overall.

"We're not where we should be right now," Nunes said. "We're making too many mental mistakes."

Added Merced coach John Bliss: "This is as big as any win we have had."

Seven players scored for Merced, which shot 40 percent (21-for-53) from the field and 63 percent (15-for-24) from the free-throw line.

Allison Garcia finished with a team-high 14 points. Krystal Johnson, Jacque Yancey (10 in first half) and Ja'Lara Walker added 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively. Keyona McKibbens scored nine points. Daleena Scott had four points. Krysta Lockard had three points.

Seven players scored for Ceres, which shot 30 percent (24-for-79) from the floor and 57 percent from the foul line.

Krystle Brown led the way with a team-high 14 points, including eight in the third quarter. Heidi Eisenbeis had 13 points. Quantelle Daniels added nine points. Kelsey Sayad, Meghan Franksen, Heather Mazza and Jennifer Arnold scored eight, seven, six and five points, respectively.

Merced settled down in the second half after committing 21 turnovers and shooting 35 percent (9 of 26) from the floor in the first half. The Bears shot 44 percent from the field (12-for-27) and had just nine turnovers.

"We controlled the tempo in the second half," Bliss said.

Merced also made nine 3-pointers in the game, including six in the second half.

Garcia, who finished with 12 points after intermission, nailed three 3-pointers in the third quarter.

"Allison Garcia had a big second half," Bliss said.

Ceres struggled in the second half as it missed 35 of 44 shots (20 percent). The Bulldogs shot 43 percent (15-for-35) from the field in the first half.

An 11-0 run helped Merced turn a seven-point deficit into a four-point lead in the third quarter. The Bulldogs trailed 51-47 heading into the final quarter. Ceres led by seven, 35-28, at halftime.

Johnson and McKibbens hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Merced ahead by six, 62-56, with 4:06 left in regulation.

Brown evened the score at 62-all with 1:19 remaining.

Johnson made two free throws to put Merced ahead by two with 1:04 left.

Ceres had a chance to tie the game twice in the final minute but didn't capitalize. Daniels turned the ball over in the key and Mazza misfired from 3-point range.

"Our defensive intensity was very good down the stretch," Bliss said.

Ceres 52, Beyer 45

Krystle Brown did it again.

Ceres High's junior center got hot in the second half. She scored 10 of her game-high 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs edged the Patriots 52-45 at in Ceres on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

Ceres improved to 8-2 overall, 18-6 overall.

Beyer fell to 5-5 in the CCC, 10-10 overall.

The Patriots stormed back after falling behind by eight, 12-4, in the first quarter.

Down 23-17 at half, Beyer outscored Ceres 16-11 in the third to pull within one point, 34-33.

Brown and the Bulldogs outscored Beyer 18-12 in the fourth quarter on 5-for-12 shooting. Eisenbeis and Mazza had three points. Sayad had two points.

Seven of Ceres' nine players scored.

Daniels and Eisenbeis had 13 and seven points, respectively. Franksen and Mazza scored five points. Sayad and Jessica Mazza added four points.

The Bulldogs shot 75 percent (15-for-20) from the free-throw line and had just five turnovers in the game.

Nine Beyer players scored.

Jessica Rosen finished with a team-high 11 points, including 7 in the second half. Courtney Frazer, Krissy Holmes and Sam Borba had seven points. Amanda Garcia and Tina Slagel added four and three points, respectively. Erin Basey, Stef Sadler and Rachel Pacheco scored two points.

The Patriots shot 65 percent (9-for-14) from the foul line and had 13 turnovers. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier