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Dawgs vie for league title, playoffs
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The Ceres High varsity girls basketball program has accomplished a lot during Shawna Nunes' tenure as head coach.

“I've never not made playoffs,” said Nunes, who has guided the Bulldogs to one section championship, five league titles, and a dozen consecutive postseason berths and non-losing campaigns.

“Ceres High is such a great school to play for,” Ceres junior center-forward Kristen McClure said. “I've learned a lot from my coaches and teammates.”

The Bulldogs are hoping for a repeat performance in 2005-06. Ceres High claimed the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II crown, placed second in the Modesto Metro Conference at 12-3 and accumulated 25 wins last year.

“You're always looking to win league and go far in the playoffs,” said Nunes, 2005 Modesto Metro Conference Coach of the Year.

Ceres High lost five players from last year's championship squad, including Heather Mazza, Krystle Brown, Meghan Franksen, Donna Zaragoza and Kelsey Sayad. Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Zaragoza earned all-league honors.

“You coach what you have and don't worry about it,” Nunes said.

The Bulldogs have five returners in McClure, Jessica Mazza, Jennifer Arnold, Heather Jones and Jordan Nash.

“We're a different team,” Nunes said. “A lot of them are having to learn different roles this year.”

Added McClure: “I think we're going to do really good even though we lost five of our best players. We still have five returning players. We're going to have to step up. If we work hard enough and play as a team I think we'll go very far.”

Arnold, a senior guard, started last season. She had 12 points, six steals, five rebounds, two assists and one block during Ceres High's 57-46 win over Vacaville in the section title game at Arco Arena.

Mazza, McClure and Jones also excelled in the playoffs.

Mazza, an athletic senior guard-forward, scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the section finals. She hadn't reached double figures in scoring or rebounding the entire season.

“No one can stop her if she doesn't want to be stopped,” Nunes said.

McClure, a dominant post player, had 12 points for the Bulldogs in a 52-42 loss to Aragon in the NorCal playoffs.

“She's a versatile player,” Nunes said. “She can play every position except point guard.”

Jones, a junior, and Nash, a senior, provided depth at guard last year.

Erica Arellano, Kyleesha Williams, Cassie Rayford, Jamie Boling, Dayna Butler, LaJuana Guillory, Melanie Casey and Brittany Lusk round out Ceres High's 13-player roster. Arellano, Rayford, Boling, Butler, Guillory and Casey led the JV Bulldogs to a first-place finish in league.

Ceres High's league schedule includes games against Beyer, Davis, Johansen, Modesto High and Downey. The Bulldogs, Patriots, Spartans, Vikings, Panthers and Knights will play each other three times.

Beyer is the frontrunner because it returns a host of players, including leading scorer Jessica Rosen. Pitman transfers Tiare and Tanya Jennings will also contribute.

Davis and Ceres are legitimate contenders.

The defending champion Spartans lost several of their top players to graduation, including honorable-mention All-America selection and current UC Berkeley forward Ashley Walker. Senior Tiffany Ashby, juniors Maria Sanchez and Angel Blanco, and sophomores Meghan Devlin and Erin Ovalle are back. Heather Raham, a senior transfer from Medina High School in Ohio, will also provide a boost.

Johansen, Modesto High and Downey will be led by Megan Lubinsky, Mallory Wilhite and Kapri Hockaday, respectively. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier